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Greenland finally ends 50-year bid to drill for oil

Greenland has finally ended its 50-year ambition to become an oil producing territory. In the name of climate change, all exploration licences have been suspended indefinitely.

If you were to list the clearest indicators of humanity’s damage to the planet, the constantly melting ice of Greenland would easily make top three.

Perishing at a rate faster than any time in the past 12,000 years, we’re faced with the very real prospect of losing the entire region within the next millennium.

By the end of the century, the total ice loss could prompt sea level rises between 2cm and 10cm – if we fail to massively reduce our carbon emissions, that is.

Greenland’s rich supply of oil

These worries were previously exacerbated by former US president Donald Trump, who on multiple occasions talked up the possibility of tapping into Greenland’s potential ‘mineral wealth.’ Thankfully, both Greenland and Denmark swiftly dismissed the US proposal in 2019.

Geological surveys have long suggested Greenland’s northeast area conceals the equivalent of over 30bn barrels of oil.

However, due to drastic fluctuations in the value of oil and massive costs of working in vulnerable Arctic waters, firms find it difficult to make any kind of profit. As such, financial offers are rarely made to acquire the territory.

Saying that, there has always been an underlying worry that a fossil fuel giant like Shell, Chevron, or ExxonMobil would eventually swoop in and begin drilling the rapidly fading landscape.

Only last month, this half-century of stress was finally alleviated.

Government finally bans exploration licences

The search for oil in Greenland peaked between 2002 and 2014 with more than 20 exploration licences open at once.

Today, four active licences remain spanning from onshore Jameson Land in the east, to offshore in the southwest. All are due to expire in 2027 and 2028.

Barring these projects – which will likely be redundant given the current lack of profit we’ve discussed – Greenland’s government has put an indefinite suspension on any oil based licenses that may be in the works for the future.

This week is the first many are hearing of the ban, though it officially came into effect on June 24.

‘It is a decision where climate considerations, environmental considerations, and economic common sense go hand in hand,’ stated Greenland’s natural resources manager Naaja Nathanielsen. ‘Suspending the current oil strategy is the right choice.’

Although Greenland’s newly stated government is determined to lessen its financial and administrative dependence on Demark, the territory is most concerned with making sustainable decisions to bring local temperatures down where possible.

This attitude hopes to ‘place Greenland as the country where sustainable investments are taken seriously.’

Though the majority of warming is out of Greenland’s hands, it will have to get serious about limiting emissions where it can. As it stands, rates of melting match that of the Holocene period – the length of time between the last ice age and today.


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