Values and policy development

The Government of Iceland and municipalities place great emphasis on transportation, agriculture, infrastructure investment, changes in people's consumption habits and innovation in the green transition. These are usually professions and sectors where men are in a large majority.

Prevailing values and policies in environmental and climate matters

The Icelandic Government’s Climate Action Plan focuses heavily on transition in transportation, agriculture, waste processing, and anti-waste measures. Emphasis is also placed on the development of new catalysts for transition and carbon sequestration. Furthermore, emphasis is also placed on innovation that supports this transition along with technical solutions.

The City of Reykjavik has its own plan for matters of the environment and climate. Reykjavik City’s Climate Policy for the years 2021-2025 emphasizes six main goals, which are a walkable City, energy transition, health-promoting modes of travel, circular thinking, ecological structures, and carbon sequestration. The City has also prepared an Action Plan until the year 2030 called the Green Deal. The Green Deal summarizes the initiatives and green investments in Reykjavik. Great importance will be placed on creating jobs in the development of infrastructure, such as in transportation, in the development of commercial areas and residential buildings, all typical male jobs. Changes in consumption habits are also important in the Green Deal and residents and businesses will be encouraged to reuse and sort.

The Icelandic Government and Reykjavik City attach great importance to self sufficiency, property development, technological development and science when it comes to transformation in the interests of the environment and climate. There is less talk of how cooperation and care towards nature and society can be used in this context. The former is considered an example of masculine values and the latter of feminine societal values. In the West, environmental and climate change issues are often framed as problems of industrialization, and solutions are based on technological innovation, a certain control of natural resources and economic expansion.

Perspectives of gender and equality

Much of the above emphasis is perceived as supporting the masculine values of societies where the fields of science, technology, and transportation are more often in the hands of men than women. While research and surveys indicate that women are more concerned about climate change and are often more willing to go further than men to change their behavior, women are usually in the minority of decision-makers in environmental and climate matters.

Research also suggests that when the number of female managers increases within companies, this leads to a reduction in the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. However, perspectives of gender and equality in environmental and climate change issues do not seem to gain institutional traction if women and other minorities are not allowed to participate in debates and decision-making. It often takes more than just the involvement of these groups in environmental and climate policy to bring about real change.

Research in Scandinavia show that when women are equal to men in decision-making positions concerning the environment and climate, it does not necessarily mean that actions take gender and gender considerations into account. There often appears to be limited knowledge of the impact of gender and equality on environmental and climate policy, and a lack of willingness or interest in change.

A diverse group of people in management positions, systemic changes and knowledge and training in gender mainstreaming within institutions, companies and the public sector could contribute to effective policies that take into account the different impacts of environmental and climate issues on different social groups.

Creating space for alternative views and policies on the environment and climate requires a strong civil society and increased awareness of the climate problem. A certain resistance to dominant ideologies is also needed, as is an emphasis on male-dominated professions and continuous development to prevent transitions in the interests of the environment and climate from increasing social inequalities.

One way to prevent increased social inequality due to environmental and climate change is to increase the participation of marginalized groups and those who are most vulnerable to changes due to environmental and climate change. These groups are usually not allowed to participate in policy-making and decision-making in the matters that have the greatest impact on their future.

In addition, the policies and actions of the government and municipalities do not necessarily need to come from people in positions of power, especially when they concern environmentally friendly behaviour. Research shows that grassroots movements and community-led projects help to combat climate threats. People who care about their neighborhood and support their local community often come up with ideas that the people in power do not think of.

Gender-disaggregated data

There is often a lack of gender-disaggregated statistical data for the policy area, issues, main programs and main projects in environmental and climate matters in order to fairly assess the impact of gender and equality in the Nordic countries can be assessed fairly. The compilation and availability of gender-disaggregated data must be improved, and further research should also be carried out on the position of different social groups in relation to environmental and climate change. 

The Climate Council notes that in many EU countries the introduction of green budgeting is under way to ensure coordination and policy coherence in the Government’s climate policy, and this is something the Icelandic government could embrace. It is also suggested that the Icelandic Government needs to clearly define its environmental and climate objectives and priorities, both in terms of countermeasures and adaptation to climate change. Doing so would make it easier to assess current actions along with their costs and impact.

Trust in the government

Respondents in the Gallup environmental poll were more likely to be dissatisfied with the Government’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but seemed more satisfied with the efforts of their municipalities. Most people also thought that Iceland could not become carbon-neutral by 2040.

A survey with Nordic people showed that the people of Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and Greenland have the least confidence in their government. More than 3% of the Icelandic respondents had a very high level of confidence in the government compared to about 10-14% in the other Nordic countries.

A subsequent report suggests that in order to implement reforms that support green transitions in Nordic communities, the public needs to trust the government and believe that politicians can respond to the climate change problem.

The main reasons for the low level of trust in the government were that governments acted too slowly and that they were not aligned with their politicians. Research also shows that people who trust the government and politicians are more likely to accept measures such as carbon taxes and other actions related to changes in individual behavioral, especially if the increased tax revenue is used for good.

Is greater participation of women enough?

The increased participation of women in forestry organizations in Sweden and India did not lead to increased gender mainstreaming because there was little interest among men within the organizations for changes in activities and policies. In Sweden, women found it difficult to express their opinions and actions were usually predetermined by the men who controlled the organization. In India, the men felt their own interests were more important and there was no point in acting in the interests of the women until their goals were met. It is therefore important that, alongside with balancing the gender ratio, action is taken to change the institutional culture and prevailing values and attitudes.