© Elisabeth Kruger / WWF

WWF Arctic Council Scorecard


Iceland continues to contribute to improved management of the Arctic environment and to regional cooperation to achieve regional conservation targets.

It has made progress on environmental monitoring and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It has also has identified a need to map and designate further sensitive terrestrial and marine protected areas. However, Iceland has not yet defined specific biodiversity objectives in its national Arctic policy. Furthermore, balancing economic pressures from shipping activities with the protection of marine protected areas remains a challenge. For now, the risk of oil spills from exploration or exploitation activities in Iceland remains low. The country allowed the start of exploration and licensing for hydrocarbons in 2014 and put a legal framework in place. However, plans to start exploiting oil from 2022 onward were halted in 2018 when two of the three companies involved decided not to proceed.




See full criteria.


  • The Environment Agency of Iceland is making progress on monitoring environmental stressors, including contaminants, persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals in biota, and endocrine disruptors in some marine species. It is also monitoring marine litter on beaches and plastic particles in seabirds under the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR) (Crit. 1.3.1).
  • Iceland is collaborating with the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Norway to develop a Web-based information system that includes an overview of sensitive and important areas, nature reserves and wildlife. The North Atlantic Sensitivity and Response Map aims to support decision-making by countries planning pollution preparedness and response.
  • The Icelandic Institute of Natural History has completed a gap analysis for a network of terrestrial protected areas, with an emphasis on habitat types, birds and geological formations (Crit. 2.2.1). Some of the identified sites could be given protected status by the Parliament in the future (Crit. 2.2.2).
  • Iceland has established protected areas in its waters under OSPAR and national law, as well as some internationally designated sites under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (Crit. 2.3.1).
  • Iceland announced a new climate strategy in 2018 that aims to reduce net emissions and achieve carbon neutrality by 2040 (Crit. 4.1.3).


  • Iceland’s keystone Arctic policy does not contain specific biodiversity objectives (Crit. 1.1.1), nor does it include climate change and its impact on biodiversity (Crit. 1.1.2).
  • Iceland supports some monitoring activities related to the Arctic Council’s Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program. Nevertheless, it is not clear to what extent it encourages Indigenous knowledge holders or scientists to contribute to these activities (Crit. 1.3.2).
  • Measures offering protection from the impacts of Arctic marine shipping are not in place for all Icelandic areas identified as having heightened cultural significance, or for other types of marine protected areas (Crit. 6.1.2-3), leaving these vulnerable areas at risk of pressures from shipping.
  • Iceland could improve its sustainability efforts in Arctic shipping by implementing regulatory requirements for lower-emission fuels (Crit. 6.2.1) and adopting operational practices to lower air emissions (Crit. 6.2.2) or banning the use of heavy fuel oil (Crit. 6.2.4). Currently, air emissions from shipping remain an important pressure in Icelandic waters.

Detailed ratings

C Biodiversity

  • Mainstreaming Biodiversity and its Resilience
  • 2/6
  • Sustainable Management of Living Resources and Habitats
  • 2/4
  • Monitoring Biodiversity
  • 2/4
  • Overall Rating
  • 6/14

All ratings for Biodiversity

B Conservation areas

  • Identification of Conservation Areas
  • 4/6
  • Protecting Areas of Ecological Importance
  • 2/4
  • Mechanisms to Safeguard Connectivity
  • 2/2
  • Overall Rating
  • 8/12

All ratings for Conservation areas

C Ecosystem-based Management

  • Environmental Impact Assessments, Strategic Environmental Assessments and Risk Assessments
  • 6/8
  • Assessment of Combined Effects of Multiple Stressors
  • 0/2
  • Arctic State Cooperation in Advancing Implementation of EBM
  • 0/2
  • Overall Rating
  • 6/12

All ratings for Ecosystem-based Management

C Black Carbon and Methane

  • Short-lived Climate Forcers: Black Carbon and Methane Emissions
  • 3/10
  • Climate Change Adaptation
  • 5/6
  • Climate Change Observation
  • 2/2
  • Overall Rating
  • 10/18

All ratings for Black Carbon and Methane

B Oil Spills

  • National Action for Preparedness and Response
  • 1/2
  • Oil Spill Monitoring
  • 4/4
  • Oil Spill Prevention
  • 6/8
  • Overall Rating
  • 11/14

All ratings for Oil Spills

D Shipping

  • Protection from various shipping risks
  • 2/6
  • Actions to reduce air emissions from shipping
  • 1/8
  • Arctic Marine Traffic System
  • 2/2
  • Overall Rating
  • 5/16

All ratings for Shipping