Business

Greenland bans all oil exploration

The government of Greenland has decided to suspend all oil exploration off the world's largest island, calling it "a natural step" because the Arctic government "takes the climate crisis seriously."

Arctic nation has no active oil fields but U.S. estimates there could be 17.5 billion barrels undiscovered

While Greenland has no known oil deposits in its territory, receding sea ice could reveal many untapped resources. (Felix Linhardt/Kiel University)

The government of Greenland has decided to suspend all oil exploration off the world's largest island, calling it "a natural step" because the Arctic government "takes the climate crisis seriously."

No oil has been found yet around Greenland, but officials there had seen potentially vast reserves as a way to help Greenlanders realize their long-held dream of independence from Denmark by cutting the subsidy of the equivalent of about $680 million Canadian the Danish territory receives from the Danish government every year.

Global warming means that retreating ice could uncover potential oil and mineral resources which, if successfully tapped, could dramatically change the fortunes of the semi-autonomous territory of 57,000 people.

"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 said it "wants to take co-responsibility for combating the global climate crisis."

The decision was made 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.

When the current government took office, led by the Inuit Ataqatigiit party since April's parliamentary election, it immediately began to deliver on election promises and stopped plans for uranium mining in southern Greenland.

Greenland still has four active hydrocarbon exploration licences, 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 licences that are left have very limited potential," Mads Flarup Christensen, Greenpeace Nordic's general secretary, told weekly Danish tech-magazine Ingenioeren.

Denmark decides foreign, defence and security policy, and supports Greenland with the annual grant that accounts for about two-thirds of the Arctic island's economy.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now