Action 288: Ask your politicians to take note of what Greenland did this summer

GreenlandDate: 15 October
Action: 288
Cost of taking action: £/$/€ NIL


Fossil fuels: a recent announcement from Greenland could prove to be a significant step

This summer, Greenland made a very interesting announcement. The government there has decided to no longer issue licenses to permit exploration for gas and oil deposits, citing our need to drastically reduce our dependence on and use of fossil fuels. The burning of fossil fuels – coal, gas and oil – releases long locked-up carbon into our atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse gasses” such as methane are responsible for the global warming that is now threatening our planet’s ecosystems and even our very survival.

Todays action is to draw this decision of Greenland’s to the attention of politicians in your own country. Greenland is transiting it economy and energy strategy, and although a small country (in terms of population and economy, it’s HUGE geographically) the total ban on seeking further fossil fuel deposits is an important statement and Greenland joins only a small number of countries adopting this approach.

What to do

Please send this letter, or your own letter based on our word, to your member of parliament or the equivalent in your own country.

Dear <name of politician>

Re: Announcement from the government of Greenland on fossil fuel exploration

Forgive me if you are already aware, but I wanted to draw to your attention the fact that the government of Greenland has now imposed a total ban on oil and gas field exploration and will no longer be issuing licenses to oil and gas companies allowing them to search for fossil fuel resources. I would also be grateful for your responses to my questions below.

This ban by Greenland comes at a time when, I am sure you are aware, it is no exaggeration to say that our very existence is being threatened by climate change brought about by global warming. Only by massively shifting our economies, energy strategies and infrastructure to exploit clean, renewable sources of energy instead of relying on fossil fuels do we have any chance at all of managing the consequences of climate change. Many would claim that we are already past the point of no return, but perhaps if other governments were to take similarly  courageous decisions there is hope still.

As the Greenland government has stated, on environmental grounds the price of extraction is “too high.” The island’s decision to scrap planned exploration has been made despite the fact that it cuts off potential investments that could have aided efforts to gain economic independence from Denmark. The government there said in their statement. “This step has been taken for the sake of our nature, for the sake of our fisheries, for the sake of our tourism industry, and to focus our business on sustainable potentials.”

My questions are

  • do you commend this decision and will you advocate for similar action by other countries around the world?
  • how does this reconcile with <insert information about your own country’s known fossil fuel activity here>?
  • what, if any, similar action is planned or is being discussed by our government in the next 2 years?

I look forward to hearing from you.

…. sign off in usual way


Ten years ago, Greenland had become a hotspot for drillers as a commodity-price boom attracted not only oil explorers but miners of diamonds, iron, rare earths and other metals. But the official ban now puts an end to dreams of energy riches.

The decision to abandon oil exploration comes amid increasingly alarming signs of global warming for Greenlanders. Average sea levels have risen about 9 inches since 1880, and about a quarter of that increase comes from ice melting in the Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets, along with land-based glaciers elsewhere, according to a study published in Nature in May 2021.

Greenland’s west coast alone is estimated to contain about 18 billion barrels of oil, according to a recent study from the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland. The U.S. Geological Survey has previously estimated that there may be double that volume in crude and natural gas in the east.

The island isn’t banning all mineral exploration, but fossil fuels are out.

“The Greenlandic government believes that the price of oil extraction is too high,” it said in the statement. “… considerations of the impact on climate and the environment play a central role in the decision.”

A number of other European countries have also scrapped plans for oil exploration in recent years, including Denmark, France, Spain and Ireland.

Pele Broberg, Greenland’s minister for business, trade, foreign affairs, and climate, says the decision is also economic. “International investments in the energy sector in recent years are moving away from oil and gas and into renewable energy. It is therefore natural that we emphasize business on the opportunities of the future and not on the solutions of the past,” he said.

Why is this an important action?

Our governments are dealing with a complex set of intertwined issues, and we need to take every opportunity we can to let decision makers know that climate change should be increasingly the deciding factor. Writing to our MPs, peaceful lobbying, social media activity, and exercising consumer power are all ways of doing this.

Brave decisions by governments are more likely to emerge if the individuals involved in those votes are aware that things can be done differently. Making sure your MP knows that Greenland and a handful of other countries are prepared to make things work differently means that they are a little bit more likely to push for change in their own country.

Take action, take opportunities like this to educate our decision makers!

Learn more about the Greenlandic decision here.