Iceland’s foreign minister tackles climate change and same-sex marriage


(eTN) – Geothermal energy could answer a substantial part of the energy demands of many poorer countries, Iceland’s foreign minister said last week in New York, telling United Nations Member States that it was time to consider initiatives to transfer expertise and financing to those nations in need.

In an address to the General Assembly’s annual high-level segment, Össur Skarphédinsson said Iceland could draw on its experience to assist developing countries.

While the country dominated news headlines in April this year when an ash cloud from a volcanic eruption led to the temporary shutdown of air travel over much of Europe, Iceland has long used geothermal energy to meet its own energy needs.

“Geothermal will of course not on its own solve the climatic problems, but in some parts of the world it could, however, make a huge difference,” Foreign Minister Skarphédinsson said.

“In East Africa the utilization of geothermal potential could free the people of several nations from the bondage of energy poverty. They do, however, lack the geothermal expertise ¬ and the finance for the infrastructure.

“Iceland, therefore, has formally engaged in discussions with some of the big nations operating, for example, in East Africa, to form a partnership for a geothermal drive in countries with unused potential. Iceland would put up the expertise. The partners [would put up] the necessary finance. This initiative could enable some countries to escape from energy-poverty, industrialize without undue emissions, and embark on the road to prosperity.”

In a wide-ranging speech, the Icelandic foreign minister also discussed the recent global financial crisis, the impact of climate change, gender equality, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and human rights.

In June Iceland became the ninth country to legalize same-sex marriage, and Mr. Skarphédinsson said he “strongly urged other nations to remove all discrimination based on sexual orientation.”