A Greenlandic Reality
With a population of 57,000 people spread across an area that from north to south stretches the same distance as from Norway to the southernmost tip of Italy and from Canada to Mexico, Greenland is faced with considerable challenges when it comes to maintaining a well-connected society. Add an arctic climate to this along with the fact that 81 % of the country is covered by an ice sheet in order to understand why Greenland, compared with many other countries, has a relatively high emission per capita. Greenland’s ability to take on future emission reduction commitments should therefore be seen in this light.
If Greenland’s coastline was to be stretched out in a straight line, it would span Earth’s circumference and longer. Towns and settlements are scattered along the coast, often with great distances between them. This means that goods supply and transportation is costly and associated with a heavy consumption of fossil fuels. The challenging terrain further means that towns and settlements are not connected by road and that travel between them has to take place either by boat, plane or helicopter. In the winter, when sea ice coverage can make it difficult to move by water, most transport is by air which is especially energy taxing.
Electricity and Heating
The cold climate and a long winter mean that the need for heating and lighting is significant and contributes to increasing greenhouse gas emissions. However, Greenland has invested considerably in hydropower and today more than 50 % of population is supplied with energy from renewable sources. At the same time, the great distances between towns and settlements mean that a connected supply grid is not an option and that energy production remains dependent on fossil fuels in many places. Efforts to secure proper living conditions for all citizens is therefore associated with higher emissions of greenhouse gasses than is the case in many of those countries that we compare ourselves with.
Naalakkersuisut, the Greenlandic government, recognises that the country might increase its emissions in the future as investments in large-scale industrial projects and mining take off. This should be seen against the background of Greenland moving towards increasing political independence for which economic independence remains a prerequisite. At present, the country receives an annual block grant from Denmark, which feeds into the national economy and the need to build up new industry is hence of particular importance. The establishment of new industries will entail increased emissions. Naalakkersuisut confronts this challenge by minimising its emissions, where it is possible. The fact that Greenland has invested 1% of GDP annually in renewable energy throughout the last decade is an example of this.
If you would like to get a better impression of Greenland’s geography in relation to other parts of the world, you can have a look here.