Greenland, with its melting glaciers and Arctic changes may be Denmark’s showcase of how man-made global warming is affecting the globe – but the island’s government wants to heavily increase its CO2 emissions in order to develop.
The island’s new prime minister Kuupik Kleist has repeated threats not to endorse a global climate agreement at the United Nations Climate Summit in Copenhagen in December unless the country is allowed to increase its CO2 emissions.
”If there is to be any chance of economic growth and reductions in Danish subsidies, it is absolutely necessary that Greenland develops economically,” says Kuupik Kleist.
In 2007, Greenland emitted some 650,000 tonnes of CO2, but Kleist says that figure could increase to 10 million tonnes if the local administration’s dreams of attracting new industries – including an aluminium smelter - are fulfilled.
Greenland, much of which is covered by permafrost, has a population of some 57,000 and is larger than much of Europe put together.
“People don’t want us to live from our traditional methods, but nor do they want us to develop new industries. What should we do? Is it because they want us to maintain an economic dependency so that we continue to collect subsidies from Denmark,” asks Kleist, who is due to meet Climate Minister Connie Hedegaard today.
Heegaard says Greenland’s demands are unrealistic as emissions of 10 million tonnes would result in more than 170 tonnes of CO2 per capita – making Greenland one of the world’s most polluting countries.
“It is difficult to argue in favour of one of the places hardest hit by climate change being allowed to emit eight-and-a-half times as much as the average American,” says Hedegaard.
Unlike the Faroe Islands, Greenland chose to accept obligations under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, but has so far been unable to live up to an eight percent reduction by 2012. New restrictions on Greenland emissions would, therefore, be almost impossible to honour.
“It is very important for me to find a solution with Denmark. But we may be forced into a situation in which we will have to remain outside a climate agreement and not accept obligations to reduce emissions,” says Kleist.
Edited by Julian Isherwood