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Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson

President of Iceland, Patron of Driving Sustainability

Mr. Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson was elected the fifth President of the Republic of Iceland on 29 June 1996 for a four-year term. Mr. Grímsson is now serving his fourth term as president after being re-elected in 2008. Mr Grimsson is a Patron of Driving Sustainable Conference.

Tagged under: Government, DS10 Reykjavik, DS09 Reykjavík, DS08 Reykjavík, DS07 Reykjavík

Reykjavik DS08 Address

Herra Forseti Islands, Ministers, Excellencies, Mayors, Kaeru aheyrendur, kära svensktalande, dear participants,


I am proud that the Swedish Embassy was one of the initiators of this seminar on sustainable energy. I am also glad that the energy put into arranging this seminar has not been measured in CO2 emissions — I fear Iceland would then have surpassed its Kyoto quota. Many thanks to the organizers.


Now, why is Sweden one of the supporters of this seminar? Well, first of all Sweden is a producer of cars, buses and trucks, through Volvo, Saab and Scania. 

Secondly Sweden – like  Iceland - has more cars per capita than most other developed countries. We Swedes like to see ourselves in the forefront of so-called “green living”, including choice of cars: every fifth car bought in Stockholm today is a so called “green” car. 

Thirdly, Swedish companies are in the forefront of technical development and research. Last June an agreement was signed between Sweden and the US Department of Energy to further expand cooperation on renewable energy and vehicle technologies. The US Embassy in Stockholm has identified 37 Swedish companies in the alternative energy field for possible American capital investment or partnership (list to be found in the material  outside this hall).


Sweden is making a determined transition from oil to other energy sources including biofuels. We have reduced our emissions by more than 40 % since the 1970s, while at the same time economic growth increased by 105 %. The goal is to phase out our dependence on oil by the year 2020. One of the major challenges facing Sweden- as well as Iceland- is to adapt transport to climate change. In our climate and geography it is difficult to cope without cars and planes – and ships. But travel must not contribute to increased emissions. The Swedish government is working towards a transport sector whose burden on the climate will decrease. Step by step, taxes, regulation and economic instruments are developed to promote environmentally friendly choices. 

Already six joint programmes are being run with the automotive industry in Sweden to develop more environmentally friendly cars. Stockholm has more biogas filling stations than most other cities. You can get Ethanol 85- fuel at every large gas station in Sweden.


Among other measures are tax exemption for ethanol, government funding of railways and other public transport, legislation to enable owners of petroleum-driven cars to convert them to alternative fuels, and free parking for clean vehicles, which are also exempted from the congestion tax in Stockholm.


The objective of my Government is for Sweden to be a leading model for a modern society that is environmentally sound and built on sustainable resources.  I have been asked by the Swedish Government to read out the following message to this seminar, sent by the Swedish Minister of Trade.


“Climate change is a serious challenge that effects us all. Voters all over the world look to their political leaders to address the challenge. The European Union, its Member States and individual countries, such as Iceland, are responding by raising the ambitions to replace fossil fuels with renewable fuels, not least in the transport sector. Sweden has a comprehensive policy for reducing national emissions of greenhouse gases. We are working with determination, and through different means, to minimise the harmful effects of the transport sector on the climate.


All policy areas must contribute in this vital endeavour. As Minister of Trade, I am committed to make every effort to ensure that the international trading system supports climate policy ambitions. At present, domestic approaches in the field of biofuels is often based on market access restrictions. This can make biofuels more expensive than necessary and hamper the development of present and potential future producer countries of biofuels. We need to dismantle current markets distortions and create a well-functioning world market for biofuels. It is also important to ensure a sustainable production of biofuels. In parallel, research and development is needed in order to develop second generation biofuels. Sweden together with the other Nordic countries are in the forefront in this work, which also creates new business opportunities for our industries.    


The support of the Government of Sweden for this conference from its conception until its realisation today is proof of our belief in cooperation with Iceland – a country that, just like Sweden, is in the forefront of sustainable energy and environmentally sustainable development. This conference provides an excellent opportunity to debate different avenues to foster the development and use of renewable energy such as bio fuels. I am convinced that you will have an interesting and fruitful discussion and I look forward to hearing about the outcome of the conference.”


On a personal note I would only like to add that I hope we will not forget two issues in driving sustainability: one is simply saving energy, and the other is using L-E-G power. On sunny days in Reykjavik let us walk or bike to work - let us use leg-power.


Thank you.

Madeleine Ströje Wilkens

Ambassador of Sweden to Iceland

September 17, 2007


Reykjavik DS07 Address




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