Since the end of May, when he started to cover the post of environment minister in Iceland, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson has aroused the anger of environmentalists time after time. First he moves some proposed power plants from a “pending – more research needed” category to “exploitable”, then he says he’s of the view that the environment ministry should be dismantled, then he calls off at the last minute the signing of a bill to ensure the preservation of the Þjórsá area in South Iceland, then he says he does not disagree with a new design of a hydroelectric diversion in the Þjórsá river that most people thought was no longer on the drawing board due to its environmental ramifications, and now he says he wants to revoke the extremely comprehensive bill on conservation that was passed in the closing hours of the previous Althing session as some people are unhappy about it. That might be true, as it’s the 4WD association that have complained the most and the law will prohibit them driving off-road. But that is also the purpose of the law.
The above law was meant to enter into force next year – the old one is currently in force – and he wants to put a new law forward next spring.
The prime minister said a few weeks ago that another minister will be appointed “soon”. Many people presumed this would be an environment and resources minister, which would mean that Gunnlaugsson will no longer deal with environmental matters and will stick to fisheries and agriculture (he’s a veterinarian by training). As Árni Finnsson from the Iceland Nature Conservation Association puts it: “Nothing will surprise me. He has a devilish attitude to the environment”.
But nothing more has been said about the new minister. So it seems that we’re stuck with Gunnlaugsson for the time being.