Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the tourism industry exceeded emissions from the metal industry in 2016, according to the Air Emission Account (AEA) for the Icelandic economy. Emissions from the tourism industry have grown more than fivefold since 1995 and have tripled since 2012. Emissions from fishing and food production halved over the same period. This economic sector is the only sector that has achieved a substantial reduction in emissions since 1995. The AEA gives an alternative profile to emissions from Iceland than what is covered in the National Inventory Report from The Environmental Institute. The difference between the two emission profiles is discussed in an article publisheda news release on October 26, 2018.

By 2016, emissions from the metal industry had quadrupled from the 1995 baseline. The increase coincided with an increase in the number of companies within the sector. This meant significant jumps in emissions around 1998 and again in 2008. Emissions from the metal industry originate almost exclusively from the use of carbon in metal manufacturing, with negligible emissions from oil combustion.

Emissions attributed to activities related to tourism come primarily from the airline industry, with operations of Icelandic airlines growing rapidly over the past six years. In the AEA, no distinction is made between domestic and foreign operations of Icelandic airlines or between services rendered to international tourists or to residents of Iceland.

The emission trend from activities related to tourism is correlated with an increase in the number of passengers through Keflavik airport. From 2012 to 2013, the number of passengers through Keflavik airport increased by 14%, which is identical to the increase in CO2 emissions from the sector. From 2015 to 2016, the number of passengers grew by nearly 35%, but emissions grew by 36%. This correlation is, however, in part a coincidence. A significant portion of passengers who travel through the Keflavik airport are serviced by non-resident airline operators, whose emissions are not a part of the AEA. However, the Icelandic-owned airline industry has also expanded services that do not use Keflavik as a flight hub.

Emissions from the fishing and food production industry originate primarily from the fishing fleet and from oil boilers that are used in food processing. Emissions from road transportation and agriculture are small in comparison. Reduction in CO2 emissions from the sector has been significantly greater than what can be accounted for by the reduction in the number of ships in the fleet. There were 18% fewer ships in 2016 than in 1999. Emissions, however, reduced by 50%.

It should be noted that the quantity of CO2 is not identical to the heat contribution value, which is often measured in CO2 equivalences. The quantity of CO2 is connected to the quantity of carbon that is oxidized to CO2 by combustion or other forms of oxidation. The value of CO2 equivalences also measure emissions of methane and other greenhouse gases.

Household emissions per capita peaked in 2007
Carbon dioxide emissions from Icelandic households in 2016 was 30% above their 1995 level but remained between 450 and 600 kilotons CO2 from 2008 to 2016. Household emissions are primarily from road transport activities, but the numbers also include the use of heating oil, cooking gas or coals and fireworks. Flights, bus trips, waste, electricity and heating emissions fall under emissions from other economic sectors in the account.

Emissions per capita reached a maximum of 1.96 tons CO2 per capita in 2007. This value was 1.7 tons of CO2 per capita in 2016. The amount is comparable to driving a mid-size family car 8,000 km.

Emission (kilotons)435462519578555575
Ratio (tons/head)1.631.661.771.821.691.73

Total emissions from the Icelandic economy has doubled since 1995
The table below summarizes the quantities (kilotons) of CO2 for the five sectors with the highest emissions in the Icelandic economy as well as the total emissions from the economy. Furthermore, the emissions ratio is calculated with respect to the 1995 numbers.

Carbon dioxide emission for the four largest economic sectors and the total emission
Tourism industry Metal industry Households Fishing and food production Total economy
CO2 (kt)ref. 1995CO2 (kt)ref. 1995CO2 (kt)ref. 1995CO2 (kt)ref. 1995CO2 (kt)ref. 1995

Emissions from the Icelandic economy have doubled since 1995. In 2008, the total emissions reached 4,600 kilotons but fell slightly from after the economic collapse until 2012. In 2016, emissions reached approximately 5,700 kilotons, which is the highest value since 1995.