Legal Agreements

arctic law of the sea svalbard International cooperation for the sustainable use of natural resources has emerged as an important issue in the aftermath of the World Summit on Sustainable Development. Such cooperation is especially important for Iceland, which depends for its livelihood on the sustainable utilization of natural resources.

All information is from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


Marine Resources


The oceans are of particular importance to Iceland as fisheries are the mainstay of the Icelandic economy. In recent years, the oceans have received growing attention in international cooperation.

Iceland put forth a comprehensive policy on the oceans in May 2004.

Iceland has long been active in efforts to protect the health of the marine environment, including through the UN Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities. Iceland was instrumental in initiating this programme and will continue to support its effective implementation.

The same applies to the International Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), which entered into force in October 2003. The convention is a key instrument in protecting the marine environment and biological diversity.

Icelandic authorities also participate actively in international cooperation on law of the sea issues and fisheries. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which entered into force in 1994, provides the legal basis for all deliberations in this area.

The Agreement on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, which entered into force in 1995, is also of paramount importance as it provides a framework for the conservation and management of such stocks by regional fisheries management organizations.

Iceland takes an active part in fisheries cooperation within the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), which addresses, among other things, eco-labeling of fisheries products, IUU fishing, government subsidies in the fishing industry and overfishing.

The UN University';s Fisheries Training Programme is operated in Iceland.


Climate Change

Iceland ratified the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1993, as well as the Kyoto Protocol in 2002. Icelandic authorities believe that technological developments can play an important role in tackling climate change, not least in the field of energy. The use of available clean technologies should therefore be used much more widely.

A comprehensive report on the impacts of climate change in the Arctic was delivered during the Icelandic Chairmanship of the Arctic Council 2002-2004.


Around 72% of Iceland';s energy use is derived from renewable energy sources. Geothermal heat is used to heat approximately 87% of all houses in the country.

Iceland participates in international cooperation on energy issues with a view to generate information on the country';s unique position in the field of energy and share its experience and expertise.

Iceland was one of the founding members of the International Partnership on the Hydrogen Economy (IPHE), which coordinates the work of its members as regards hydrogen.

Iceland is among the leading countries in the world in developing the hydrogen economy.

Trade and Environment

One aspect of Iceland';s development assistance is its operation of the UN University';s Geothermal Training Programme and the training of personnel from developing countries.

celand supports the Rio commitment to make trade and environment policies mutually supportive. Within the World Trade Organization (WTO), Iceland has argued for the removal of fisheries subsidies as they encourage overcapacity and overfishing.

Biological Diversity

Iceland is a party to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and several regional conventions of importance in protecting biodiversity and habitats. Despite its relatively limited variety of animal and plant species, Iceland is one of the most important breeding grounds for many bird species in the North Atlantic.

Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna

Iceland actively participates in the cooperation of the parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) and currently holds a seat on the CITES Standing Committee.


Iceland participates in the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. Soil erosion and desertification are serious environmental concerns in Iceland.

Regional Cooperation

Regional cooperation regarding the environment

Iceland attaches great importance to regional cooperation regarding the environment.

The activities of the Arctic Council are of particular importance in this respect, as the Council provides the main venue for the member states to promote sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic. Iceland served as Chair to the Arctic Council 2002-2004. In addition, the work of the Nordic Council, the Nordic Council of Ministers, the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UN ECE) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), on environmental issues, is extremely valuable.

Iceland is party to various important conventions on the environment, among them the OSPAR Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North East Atlantic and the Bern Agreement on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats.

Regional cooperation regarding sustainable utilization of marine resources

Regional fisheries management organizations play a key role in securing the conservation and sustainable use of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks. In this respect, Iceland cooperates actively with neighboring countries to ensure conservation and sustainable use of marine resources in nearby waters. This cooperation is carried out within regional organizations such as the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC), the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO), the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission (NAMMCO), and the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES).



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