Ahead of UN conference, Reykjavik and businesses sign declaration on climate change

Whale-watching and fishing boats in the harbour of Reykjavik, Iceland. Photo: UNEP GRID Arendal/Peter Prokosch

19 November 2015 – Ahead of the UN climate change conference starting on 30 November, a declaration on climate issues has been signed in Iceland by the city of Reykjavik and more than one hundred businesses and institutions, all pledging to take active measures to cut global warming by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and cut waste.

According to the agreement, supported by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the progress will be monitored, and the companies will regularly publish information on their actions. This joint venture was launched by the City of Reykjavík and Festa – the Icelandic Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility.

The signing of the Declaration marks the formal commencement of the project and is intended to motivate businesses and institutions to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases, thus actively taking responsibility towards global environmental concerns and their local community.

Participants will reportedly be offered information about climate issues – both practical guidance and accounts of the experience of other businesses in reducing their greenhouse emissions. The businesses which are affiliated to Festa, the agencies and institutions of the City of Reykjavík, as well as 300 of the largest companies in Iceland, were invited to take part in the project.

The UNFCCC-backed declaration touches the lives of more than 70,000 people directly as the companies employ a total of more than 43,000 people in addition to over 30,000 students who attend the educational institutions which are participating.

Meanwhile, the services provided by these businesses and agencies are said to affect every person in Iceland, in one way or another. In addition to its leadership of the project, the City of Reykjavík will also participate in measures to reduce emissions.

“The policy of the City of Reykjavík is to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 35 per cent by 2020,” said its Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson.

“This policy was first formulated in 2009, and it now forms a part of the Reykjavík Municipal Plan. The City administration is also developing strategies to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases arising from its own activities. The City of Reykjavík will certainly make its own contribution in this collaborative project, and we will also be able to learn much from our collaboration with businesses,” he added.

The Declaration, which was signed in Reykjavik’s Höfði House says “the nations of the world now face the consequences of climate change,” and that “the United Nations play a leading role in analysing the problem, addressing it, and adjusting to altered conditions.”

It also highlights that “cities and towns, together with businesses of all sizes, have a growing role to play with respect to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, and meeting targets regarding emissions.”

Meanwhile, Ketill Berg Magnússon, the CEO of Festa, said that many managers of businesses relate environmental issues to the long-term prospects of their companies.

“They have realized that the operations of businesses must be in harmony with the society in which they operate,” Mr. Magnússon said, adding that businesses around the world have increasingly been taking a stand on environmental issues.

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