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January 2021 marked a grim milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic, with over two million people dead. Since the new strain of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) emerged on the global stage in early 2020, an historical and unprecedented effort has been deployed to quell this global health crisis. As we settle into a new year with increased optimism following the successful development of vaccines against COVID-19, we are turning our sights toward the future, with critical policy questions in mind.
Some international agreements emerge quickly. But the birth of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification was a long tortuous journey. In particular, it was undermined by the perception that it was a development Convention. Yet the evolution of its sister Rio Conventions on Climate Change and on Biological Diversity shows that a purist approach to environmental conservation is at best misguided, and at worst dangerous.
Iceland will reach carbon neutrality before the year 2040. This is the ambitious goal that my government set in September 2018 when it introduced a new climate action plan to get us there. We are taking actions that tackle the three major global environmental challenges – on biological diversity, climate change and desertification – simultaneously.