Cool Planet 2009
Blaðamannafundur CoolPlanet 2009 var haldinn klukkan eitt í dag, 6. nóvember, 2008 í húsakynnum Sameinuðu þjóðanna í Brussel. Blaðamannafundurinn var hápunkturinn á ráðstefnu og vinnufundum samtakanna Road to Copenhagen, en þar eru í forsvari þær kjarnakonur Gro Harlem Brundtland, fyrrverandi forsætisráðherra Noregs, móðir hugtaksins um sjálfbæra þróun; Mary Robinson, fyrrverandi forseti Írlands og í forsvari fyrir Club of Madrid og Margot Wallström, framkvæmdastjóri Evrópusambandsins og leiðtogafélags kvenna. Þessar þrjár ásamt Afsane Bassir-Pour forseta UNRIC sem stóð fyrir blaðamannafundinum, og Björku Guðmundsdóttur, sátu í pallborði. Björk var kynnt til sögunnar sem fyrsti almenni borgarinn sem gengur til liðs við Road to Copenhagen til að vekja meðvitund um mikilvægi þess að fylgja eftir loforðum um aðgerðir til að vinna gegn eyðileggingu náttúrunnar og loftslagsins og sem fulltrúi Nattura.info. Björk hélt ræðu við sérlega góðar undirtektir og í kjölfarið skapaðist umræða um ástand mála og svaraði hún spurningum blaðamanna. Og hér er ræðan sem hún hélt, birt með góðfúslegu leyfi í heild sinni.
Ræða Bjarkar á Cool Planet fundinum:
“It’s important to realize that Iceland will exceed its Kyoto commitments if the aluminium plants at Helguvik and Bakki are built, although the 8 million tonne limit of carbon dioxide will probably not be exceeded before 2012. Iceland’s environment minister Thorunn Sveinbjarnardottir is of the opinion that Iceland should not ask for a repeat of the exemption in the upcoming climate change negotiations . I feel Iceland needs to seriously reconsider it´s direction dealing with climate change , if it is to work amicably with the worlds nations.”
After touring for 18 months I was excited to return home 10 weeks ago to good, solid Iceland and enjoy a little bit of stability. I had done a concert there earlier this year to raise awareness about local environmental issues - especially sustainable alternatives to aluminium smelters - 10 per cent of the nation attended the concert ; but I still felt it wasn’t enough.
So when I got home I decided to contact people all over the island who had attempted to start new companies and bring in new ways of working, but had not succeeded. For a long time Iceland’s main income had been fishing, but when that become uneconomic, people started looking for other ways to earn a living. The conservatives in power thought that harnessing Iceland’s natural energy and selling it to huge companies such as Alcoa and Rio Tinto would solve the problem.
Now we have three aluminum smelters, some of the biggest in Europe; and in the space of the next three years they want to build two more and expand one of the older ones . The majority of Icelanders are against this. They would rather continue to develop smaller companies that they own themselves and keep the money they earn. Many battles have been fought in Iceland on these issues.
In one of these battles , last june , the Minister for the Environment forced Alcoa to include the impacts of energy exploiting in their Environmental Impact Assessment. This had not been done with the previous smelters . The smelter would need energy from a handful of new geothermal power plants and possibly also some dams. This would damage pristine wilderness, hot springs and lava fields. To take THIS much energy from the geothermal fields is not even sustainable as it might cool down the fields in only few decades. Usually I don’t notice politics. I can quite happily live in the land of music-making. But what did get me caught up in it was how politicians seem bent on ruining Iceland’s natural environment. And I read last week that because of the economic crisis, few parliament members have even suggested that the law on Environmental Impact Assessment should be ignored in the future so they can build their dams as quickly as possible.
The politicians keen on the smelters built in iceland , forced through exemption from the Kyoto Protocol that went into effect in 2005 . Because Iceland derives 72 percent of its energy needs from renewable energy and had little heavy industry at the time the Protocol was agreed, the country was allowed to increase its greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent from their 1990 level, rather than decrease emissions by at least 5 percent like most of the other signatories are required to do. Since then 2 smelters have been built . Now , iceland churns out 17 tonnes of greenhouse gases per capital , while the European average is 11 tons . It’s important to realize that Iceland will exceed its Kyoto commitments if the aluminium plants at Helguvik and Bakki are built, although the 8 million tonne limit of carbon dioxide will probably not be exceeded before 2012. Iceland’s environment minister Thorunn Sveinbjarnardottir is of the opinion that Iceland should not ask for a repeat of the exemption in the upcoming climate change negotiations . I feel Iceland needs to seriously reconsider it´s direction dealing with climate change , if it is to work amicably with the worlds nations .
We need to define what sustainable green energy means . Too often these words are abused . Thermal energy can be green , clean energy but if harnessed too quickly and violently as planned for alcoa , it is not sustainable . I found it admirable when Norway banned its sovereign wealth fund from investing in Rio Tinto because of environmental concerns last september .They did not want to contribute to serious environmental damage . it should be a good example to iceland.
when the economic crisis hit , the organization i´m part of , nattura.info , were in the middle of series of workshops discussing possibilities of start-up and spin-off companies that would work in a sustainable way . For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by economists and financiers, and people with small businesses in trouble . Young families are threatened with losing their houses, and elderly people with losing all their pensions. Around this christmas they expect 10 – 20 % unemployment . This is catastrophic . Gigantic loans, it was revealed, had been taken from abroad by a few individuals and without the full knowledge of the Icelandic people. Now the nation seems to be responsible for having to pay them back. And in this emergency situation it felt nothing short of miraculous how much people are ready to take on to make the change possible . The energy there now is perhaps desperate but also enormously ready for change and ready for the risk and hard work it will take .
Iceland is a small country. We missed out on the industrial revolution and my hope was that we would skip it completely and go straight to sustainable hi-tech options. If someone could facilitate this, we could do it. There is a wonderful characteristic in the Icelandic mentality - fearlessness, with an addiction to risk-taking to the point of being foolhardy. I´m not sure the stock market is the right place for these characteristics . In music making, storytelling and creative thought, this risk-taking is a great thing. And after being introduced to a lot of Iceland’s small, growing companies I realized the potential . There are a lot of companies on almost fully formed , on the verge of standing and turning in profits . Sustainable ideas like for example geo chem , which could harness the sulphur pollution which comes from one the thermal energy plant to grow algae . Now this sulphur is killing a lot of the moss surrounding the geothermal plants but there could be built a a 400 people work place ! Icelanders are highly educated in advanced sciences. We have hundreds of people with phd in molecular biology , biotechnics and similar fields . We have several already successful companies in this field : vaki , marorka , marel , Össur, CCP, and so on. We also have a lot of doctors and people educated in the health industry . because of the hundreds of naturally hot pools all over the island and our ( so far ) almost untouched nature , we could easily become one big lush spa where people could come and nurse their wounds and relax … we could run more or less all transportation with local electricity . And even without new dams being built . There is for example a lot of excess energy from our dams and thermal energy plants at night when it is not much in use .
The icelandic energy companies and the government don´t have a sustainable relationship with rio tinte and alcoa . To get them to collaborate , they offered to build dams for them , they offered to sell them electricity for one third of what they pay in europe and gave them big discount on taxes . Meanwhile all the small icelandic companies had to pay full taxes and top price for the electricity causing many of them to go bankrupt . This is just one of many ways where the icelandic goverment and the icelandic energy companies have made it a lot easier for alcoa and rio tinte to operate there than the companies of their own countrymen . Perhaps they should reverse it .
Even though iceland has been independent for 60 years it behaved here as a colony. The servitude too eager . For me these are relationships of another age . Children of the industrial revolution , when the word sustainable didn´t exist . Because the word sustainable is not only about leaving nature as we found it . We have to also be economically , emotionally and socially sustainable .
Iceland can be more self-sufficient and more creative - and have an approach that is more 21st century than 19th century. It can build fewer, smaller and greener dams. We could use this economical crisis to become totally sustainable . Teach the world all we know about geothermal power plants . It may take longer to build and deliver profits but it is solid, stable and something that will stand independent of the rollercoaster rides of Wall Street and volatile aluminium prices.
And it will help Iceland remain what it is best at: being a gorgeous, unpredictable force of nature.