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
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
”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
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.