Greenland Bans All Future Oil Exploration, Says It’s Serious About Climate Action

Image: EHRENBERG Kommunikation via Wikimedia Commons

by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer

Greenland recently announced that it will suspend all oil exploration in a move that it hopes will show the global community it’s taking climate change seriously. The government called the decision “a natural step.” No oil has been discovered around Greenland, but for years the potential for an economy independent from Denmark has been enough to continue explorations.

However, ice around the nation is melting at a breakneck pace, pushing the government to take action against climate change.

Why This Matters: Greenland has made a decisive move that most nations have only just begun to consider. It is sacrificing the potential of lucrative wealth to save the planet.

  • The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated that Greenland’s coasts could have 17.5 billion barrels of oil and 148 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
  • Additionally, melting ice due to rising temperatures could reveal oil and mineral resources that many of the nation’s 57,000 residents believe could lead to complete independence from Denmark.

But the melting of Greenland’s ice sheet has led to a 14mm sea-level rise, and without swift reductions to global emissions, melting in the Arctic region could lead to a three-foot sea-level rise by 2100

Cold Warriors: The future does not lie in oil. The future belongs to renewable energy, and in that respect, we have much more to gain,” the Greenland government said in a statement. The government is currently led by the Inuit Ataqatigiit party, which has made fighting back against environmentally destructive development a central part of its platform. In April, it halted plans for a uranium mine in the southern part of the country.

Some critics say that despite delivering on campaign promises to take climate action, these decisions have gone against promises to increase independence from Denmark, which provides grants that support two-thirds of Greenland’s economy. The Greenland government, however, says that its decisions will preserve and empower the country’s economy. “This step has been taken for the sake of our nature, for the sake of our fisheries, for the sake of our tourism industry, and to focus our business on sustainable potentials,” it said in a statement. 

Two small companies still hold four active hydrocarbon exploration licenses, which Greenland is obligated to honor as long as the companies are actively exploring. Still, the government says it will not be issuing any more permits. Environmental groups like Greenpeace believe that the government’s decision to stop exploring is still a significant win. “My understanding is that the licenses that are left have very limited potential,” said Greenpeace Nordic’s general secretary Mads Flarup Christensen.

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