Tasks - Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources

The Ministry for the Environment was founded in 1990 and is the youngest ministry in the Icelandic Administration. The ministry's founding created the requisites for the government for formulating and enforcing an integrated policy for environmental affairs.

The organisation of environmental affairs has changed since the founding of the Ministry for the Environment. Environmental legislation has been re-examined with an eye to its consistency with the guideline of sustainable development. Among the chief hallmark statutes in the field of environmental affairs can be mentioned The Conservation Act (1999), the Act on Hygiene and Pollution Prevention (1998), the Land Surveying and Cartography Act (1997), the Planning and Settlement Act (1997), the Food Act (1995), the Act on Genetically Modified Organisms (1995), the Act on the Protection, Preservation and Hunting of Wild Birds and Wild Mammals (1994), the Act on Environmental Impact Studies (1993), the Act on Information Distribution and Access to Information on Environmental Affairs (1993) and the Act on the Icelandic Institute of Natural History and regional centers of natural history (1992).

The ministry supervises the affairs pertaining to nature in Iceland, conservation and outdoor recreation, the protection of animals, the hunting of wild animals, pollution prevention, hygiene and food, planning and settlement affairs, fire prevention, avalanches, surveying and cartography, environmental studies and surveillance, training and information activities in the field of environmental affairs.

General Policy Formulation

The Rio Conference on the environment and development in 1992 marked a milestone in environmental affairs, where the states of the world agreed to work toward conservation of the environment as well as an improved standard of living for mankind under the banner of sustainable development. In Iceland, the government has worked to put these goals into practice through general policy formulation. In 1993, the government approved a policy formulated on the basis of the outcome of the Rio Conference, "Towards Sustainable Development". In 1997, the government approved an extensive implementation plan, "Sustainable development in Icelandic society, an implementation plan through the end of the century", which was an attempt to introduce the viewpoint of sustainable development into the main industries and parts of society.

Planning and Building Affairs

The Ministry for the Environment handles planning and building affairs, environmental impact measurements, fire protection, land surveying and cartography. Among the tasks in this field is the completion of a general plan for the entire country, the preparation of land utilisation plans, development of a national information system and preparation of a digital map database for all Iceland. The organisations of the ministry in this field are the Planning Agency, the Icelandic Geodetic Survey and the Icelandic Fire Authority.


Among the ministry's tasks in this area are the protection of national and regional areas as well as species of animals and plants, the supervision of national parks and other protected areas, the protection of animals and taking measures to manage the sizes of wild animal stocks and sustainable utilisation of natural resources, the preparation of digital vegetation maps, the classification of residential areas, the acquisition of information on biological diversity, the preparation of conservation plans and plans on the protection of wetlands with international significance. The ministry also works to protect vegetation and forests in consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture. The ministry's organisations in this field are the Nature Conservation Agency, the Icelandic Institute of Natural History and the Directorate of Freshwater Fisheries.

Afforestation, revegetation and soil protection

Pollution Prevention

The ministry sees to concerns pertaining to the prevention of pollution of the air, land and water, drainage matters and issues involving the burial of waste, its treatment and recycling, as well as matters pertaining to toxic and hazardous substances. The ministry's organisation in this area is the Environment and Food Agency of Iceland.

Monitoring and Research

The ministry supervises regular monitoring of the environment and research on Iceland's nature. The ministry also handles matters regarding defences against snow and mud avalanches.

The Icelandic Institute of Natural History ministers to the monitoring and supporting study of Iceland's nature, while the Icelandic Meteorological Office sees to studies of the atmosphere, movements of the earth's crust and avalanches, in addition to general weather services. Other organisations of the ministry involved in monitoring and research are the Environment and Food Agency of Iceland, the Icelandic Geodetic Survey, the Lake Mývatn Research Station and the Directorate of Freshwater Fisheries, each in its own field.

International Cooperation

International Cooperation plays a key role in environmental affairs since most of them share in common pertinence to more than one nation, and the nature of many of them is global in scope. The Ministry for the Environment ministers to multifaceted Nordic collaboration and supervises the implementation of international environmental protection agreements to which Iceland is a party. The ministry participates in the environmental efforts of many multinational organisations, such as the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the OECD. The ministry also handles the environmental and food aspects of the Agreement on the EEA. Emphasis on the environmental affairs of the Northern Hemisphere has grown in recent years, and the Stefánsson Arctic Institute works on issues in this field. The international offices of two projects under the auspices of the Arctic Council, which see to the protection of the biosphere (CAFF) and marine conservation (PAME), are located in Iceland.