Mr. Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, President of Iceland, attends OECD Council - Introduction by OECD Secretary-General


Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General

Paris, France

27th February 2013


(As prepared for delivery)


Dear Ambassadors:

It is an honour to welcome Mr. Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, the President of Iceland, here at the OECD. Mr. Ragnar Grímsson, we thank you for being with us and for addressing this special session of the OECD Council.


President Ragnar Grímsson does not need any introduction; but I would like to remind us about some of his accomplishments.


His involvement in politics began at an early age in the 1970s, when he established the Political Science department at the University of Iceland. He was actually the first person from the University of Iceland to earn a PhD in political science. Since then, Mr Ragnar Grímsson has held the position of President for the international network of Parliamentarians for Global Action (1984-1990) and of Minister of Finance (1988-1991).


In 1996 he became the fifth President of the Republic and he has been re-elected three times since. He has received a number of distinguished awards, including the Indira Gandhi Peace Prize.


President Ragnar Grímsson has been both a pragmatic decision-maker and visionary leader. We have seen this in his skilful handling of the effects of the crisis, managing to successfully exit his country from a deep recession and achieve steady growth since 2010; and in his indefatigable efforts to promote sustainable growth.


Sustainable growth is a priority with which we could not agree more; it is central to the OECD’s Mission of “better policies for better lives” and it permeates practically all the work of this Organisation.


Iceland, under his leadership is taking this seriously. Its Sustainable Development Strategy aims to increase the share of eco-friendly fuels by a minimum of 10% in fisheries and transport by 2020; to align the UNFCCC commitments for GHG emissions with other European nations; and to run 75% of new vehicles, weighing less than five tons, on renewable energy, also by 2020. Iceland is the world leader in renewable energy. Renewables supply 100% of its electricity (about 75% hydro and 25% geothermal), and over 80% of primary energy supply (for electricity, transport and heating).


Your country, Mr. President, is also leading “a new intellectual frontier” of research, science, discoveries and scholarly cooperation in areas related to sustainable development. For example, during your Presidency, you have initiated discussions on geothermal possibilities in Alaska and Russia and launched a dialogue on the future of the Arctic and the North.


At the OECD we share your views and are working hard to integrate environmental concerns into the bone marrow of economic thinking and economic policy. Our analysis has proved that GREEN and GROWTH can be not only compatible, but also mutually reinforcing. This evidence was the catalyst for the creation of our Green Growth Strategy, delivered at the 2011 OECD Ministerial Council Meeting and the establishment of the first Green Growth Knowledge Platform (GGKP), in collaboration with the World Bank, the UNEP and the Global Green Growth Institute.


Promoting sustainable development is also enshrined in our New Approaches to Economic Challenges initiative, the NAEC.


I am also glad to report that the OECD and Iceland are working in close partnership to promote a more sustainable growth. The forthcoming 3rd OECD Environmental Performance Review of Iceland will find new ways to make best use of renewable energies and to better manage the impact of tourism on biodiversity and ecosystems services. We also have worked together to ensure sustainable and efficient fisheries in Iceland and, with the support of the International Energy Agency (IEA), we are exploring ways to achieve a carbon-neutral energy system in the Nordic region by 2050.


President Ragnar Grímsson, Ambassadors:


The OECD – Icelandic partnership grows stronger every year and thus is attested by your presence here, which we welcome. We look forward to hearing from you and learning how we can continue promoting a cleaner, stronger and fairer global economy.


I also understand that you would be happy to take questions on Iceland’s economy and its experience during the financial crisis.


Mr. President, the floor is yours.