Ávarp umhverfisráðherra á ráðstefnu um sjálfbærar samgöngur og byggðarskipulag
It is a pleasure for me to have the opportunity to address conference here in Reykjavik that is held to focus on Sustainable Transportation and Land Use Planning.
The Ministry for the Environment is in charge of the Icelandic government's policy for environmental affairs - that includes overseeing land use policy making in the entire country. Land use planning is the responsibility of local governments yet under the supervision of the National Planning Agency and therefore the Ministry for the Environment.
Now, someone may think that land use management in a country of just 103 thousand square kilometers where only 320 thousand people live may be a simple task. But make no mistake – although Icelanders may be few, their diverse ideas on how to use their delicate land and its resources often clash, and land use management can become quite controversial within a small nation with a strong will.
Land is a limited resource that we need to share. Therefore, it is important that we develop intelligent tools in the field land use planning, that both fits our nature and culture - and our commitments in the world of nations.
Land use planning is intended to enhance quality of live – in the long run - in a sustainable fashion - and the methods that the planning profession has developed through the years may be the best tools that we have, to find the balance between the three pillars of sustainability; the economical-, the social- and the environmental one.
Transportation is and has always been, one of the most important land uses in any society. Mobility is a key component in the live of individuals, cities, regions and nations. Transportation systems require resources, and within the context of land use management we need to decide how much land and sometimes water, as well as clean air, fossil fuels and or other natural recourses, we are willing to allocate for our transportation systems to make them both efficient and sustainable.
We Icelanders, like other nations have the responsibility to reduce our green house gas emission. One of the possibilities that we have, in that important task, is to make our transportation systems more efficient. Our best way to address that may be through land use planning. Solutions like improved public transport and increased density in urban areas have been around for decades, yet we have not succeeded. – Is it possible that part of the reason is, that land use planning and transportation planning have been performed at different levels, in different departments, with different goals in mind? If it is so, let's start working on improvements. Like I mentioned earlier transportation is an enormously important factor to all of us, but we must also recognize that it is only one of may land use factors, and that they all must function together in harmony.
It is important that the educational institutions in Iceland are on the forefront in discussing and studying how the integration of land use planning and transportation planning can best be performed in this country. The universities are, and must be, the resources that professionals, public servants and politicians can go to in search for knowledge and advice.
Higher education and research in Planning is still in its infancy in Iceland and therefore it is extremely valuable for us to follow research and development in this field abroad. The foreign guests have today brought us insight and inspiration on how to better address the connection of land use planning and transportation in Iceland.
The scope of the presentations has spanned the whole spectrum from the national policy level to the finer grid of street scape, sidewalks and curbs – all equally important and all addressing the three pillars of sustainability; the economic, social and environmental factors in one way or another.
The challenge for us, that have to make the policies, is to listen and to learn and to look for the fine balance that we must keep between economical, social and environmental issues. Moreover, that has to be done by adding the time factor to the equation – we must address land use, not only with our needs in mind, but with future generations' needs as well. This can be tough - not the least in times when it is tempting to grab for quick working solutions to an economic crisis.
Planning is only performed in cooperation – cooperation of the people that own and use that land, professionals and politicians. It has therefore been a pleasure to be able to join an open conference where professionals and politicians have presented their wisdom, thoughts and participated in discussions. May the lessons learned here today; bring us forward in the search for better ways to use our common resources in a sustainable manner.