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.

Transportation and supply
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 and helicopter.

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 hydropwer and today, the total amount of electricity production from hydropower is approximately 80% and the total amount of energy production is from hydropower and the waste incineration is at 67%.

The great distances between towns and settlements mean that a connected electricity supply grid is not an option. Every town and settlement (except Qaqortoq and Narsaq, are connected) has its own local power plant and backup generators. All of Greenland’s production of electricity is characterized by a so-called island operation.

Greenland is rich in regards of water resources, which can be used for hydropower. However, a big challenge is that these water resources are placed in a great distance from the towns, resulting in great costs for both the establishment of infrastructure during the construction phase as well as transmission to the towns. Therefore, production of energy is, among others, based on fossil fuels.

The future
Naalakkersuisut, the Greenlandic government, has ambitions to invest in large-scale industrial projects and mining. This should be seen against the background of Greenland moving towards increasing political independence for which economic independence remains a prerequisite. At present, Greenland 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 increase emissions. Naalakkersuisut confronts this challenge by minimising its emissions, where it is possible. Investments in renewable energy is a big part of this strategy. Besides contributing in less greenhouse emissions, Greenland’s economy is less affected by the price fluctuations in the oil market.

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.


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