Reykjavik's Pilot City Activity: Piercing through the gridlocks



Developments in recent years in the City of Reykjavik are delivering changes. The transportation fleet is slowly transitioning to electricity, and both public transport passengers and cyclists have increased. The circular economy is promoted to encourage climate-friendly and zero-emission practices, and household waste management has been radically refigured.

Nevertheless, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have increased overall. The number of residents is growing, as is the number of vehicles serving an exploding tourist industry. Circular solutions are not always accounted for in GHG inventories in both private and public sector.

Progress towards reaching carbon neutrality by 2030 is currently far too slow and will not be achieved unless significant and rapid mitigation tactics are applied.

High car dependency and resistance to waste reduction/reuse/recycling/repairing approaches are found to be barriers to change. The pilot project is designed to achieve significant reductions in GHG emissions from road transport, and in materials and waste management, by identifying both the gridlocks preventing change, and the potential for organisational innovation across networks of power, practice and decision-making, across media, mediation and accounting for facts and fiction.

Description of Activities

This pilot activity is designed to involve networks of public and private enterprises, resident, and grassroots organisations to address wellknown challenges and barriers of reducing GHG emissions.  The city and its associate organisations are already engaged in a broad range of quantitative measuring and calculations that are periodically reported and widely shared. The pilot activity will build on those and add new measures to the mix with an emphasis on qualitative means for future monitoring.

The pilot activities are divided as follows:

  • Ways of worldmaking – fact, fiction and storytelling- analysis of the factual, fictional and storytelling discourses about environment and climate issues which will feed into the outreach. Networks of power, practice and decision-making- interdisciplinary public participation study using soft GIS data collection methods centered on the themes of transport and waste management.
  • Methodological and impact frameworks – review of current indicator data and periodic report on progress, exploring both complementary values and discrepancies finalising in an assessment of the effectiveness for follow-up intervention.
  • Outreach- communications of all activities with seminars, learning courses, knowledge exchange workshops with stakeholders across public institutes and organisations, media events, etc.Interventions- focus groups with residents, resident councils, neighbourhood grassroots initiatives and businesses in the sectors of hospitality, retail and office-based operations.


To achieve significant reduction in GHG emissions in road transport, and materials and waste management, by delivering a participatory governance model, educational training tools, and engaging and inspiring networks of stakeholders for sustainable change.

Are the pilot activities building upon or part of a previous and/or existing activity?

The overarching vision for a carbon-neutral Reykjavík centres on environmentally and socially sustainable neighbourhood and community developments.

This is evident in key policies and actions:

  • The Reykjavík Green Deal;
  • Reykjavík Master Plan 2040;
  • Climate Action Plan 2021-2025;
  • Human Rights and Democracy Policy; and,
  • the Biodiversity Plan.

The Reykjavik Green Deal is a social and economic stimulus package, enforced in co-operation across city departments and municipality associations. It is intended to catalyse and empower Reykjavík’s green transition, including the circular and sharing economy, energy use and digital transformation, mobility, urban planning and development, biodiversity, public engagement and commitment to the city’s climate goals.

Together, these strategies depict a vision of climate-neutrality for Reykjavík from various angles and agreed-upon actions.

Which emissions domains will the pilot activities address?

  • All vehicles and transport (mobile energy) 

  • Multi-sector waste management and disposal 

Systemic transformation – levers of change the pilot activities will exploit

  • Governance & Policy

  • Social Innovation

  • Democracy/Participation

  • Learning & Capabilities 

Stakeholder types that the city would like to engage in the pilot activities 

  • Academia  

  • Research Institutions

  • Citizens

  • Business

  • Local NGO, Associations

Transferable features of the pilot activities to a Twin City/ies 

  • Methodology for the intervention (qualitative approach): The use of GIS-based tools for public participation that can be repeated in different urban contexts.
  • The communications methodology for stakeholders and citizens

Enabling conditions that will support the successful replication of your pilot activities in the Twin City

Communication channels in Iceland are short within and outside the administration and with stakeholders including academia. Public participation in surveys is good, access to the internet is good and digitalisation has come a long way in Iceland.

  • Established and accessible communications channels to reach diverse stakeholders, within the local administration and across the city.
  • Active citizenry with good engagement in city processes.
  • The city has a long history of making surveys, and experience in working with/surveying stakeholders (businesses and citizens) in a specific location or neighbourhood.

This answer is not exhaustive and simply an indicative one.

What does the city want to learn from Twin City/ies?

  • What are the gridlocks for change in travel behaviour?
  • What are the gridlocks to reduce waste and increase circular thinking?
  • What gridlocks are possible to pierce through?
  • What kind of culture needs to be implemented for a net zero future?
  • What kind of training and education can be a pathway for a net zero future in the sector of transport and waste?

This answer is not exhaustive and simply an indicative one.