Greenland Bans Oil Exploration,
Cites Taking ‘the Climate Crisis Seriously’ as Reason
Zoe Strozewski / Newsweek
(July 16, 2021) — Greenland’s government has decided to suspend all oil exploration off the island as a “natural step” in its commitment to taking “the climate crisis seriously,” the Associated Press reported.
Although no oil has been located off the coast of Greenland, officials there believe undiscovered but potentially extensive oil reserves could help the autonomous Danish territory gain financial independence from the Scandinavian nation. Greenland gets an annual subsidy of about $540 million from Denmark.
As global warming continues to cause ice to retreat around the island, oil and mineral reserves could emerge, and the resulting revenue could decrease Greenland’s dependence on the subsidy. However, Greenland’s left-leaning government said it “wants to take co-responsibility for combating the global climate crisis.”
“The future does not lie in oil. The future belongs to renewable energy, and in that respect we have much more to gain,” the government said.
The decision to suspend oil exploration was made on June 24 but made public Thursday.
The U.S. Geological Survey estimates there could be 17.5 billion undiscovered barrels of oil and 148 trillion cubic feet of natural gas off Greenland, although the island’s remote location and harsh weather have limited exploration.
The current government, led by the Inuit Ataqatigiit party since April’s parliamentary election, immediately began to deliver on election promises and stopped plans for uranium mining in southern Greenland.
Greenland still has four active hydrocarbon exploration licenses, which it is obliged to maintain as long as the licensees are actively exploring. They are held by two small companies.
The government’s decision to stop oil exploration was welcomed by environmental group Greenpeace, which called the decision “fantastic.”
“And my understanding is that the licenses that are left have very limited potential,” Mads Flarup Christensen, Greenpeace Nordic’s general secretary, told weekly Danish tech-magazine Ingenioeren.
Denmark decides foreign, defense and security policy, and supports Greenland with the annual grant that accounts for about two-thirds of the Arctic island’s economy.
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