International commitments

At the COP21 in Paris the parties adopted a global climate agreement under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The climate agreement contains a long-term aim to keep the global temperature rise well under two degrees and a call for action that can limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees.

On 31 March 2016 Naalakkersuisut decided to request Denmark to make a territorial reservation against the Paris Agreement in connection with the ratification of the agreement. A territorial reservation means that Greenland will have no international reduction commitments.

In the mandate given by Naalakkersuisut to Naalakkersuisoq of Industry, Labour, Trade and Foreign Affairs prior to the COP21, the prerequisite for Greenland subsequently joining a climate agreement was that the agreement would take full account of the aim for a future sustainable economic development in Greenland.

Greenland’s desire for future economic development in Greenland could in part have been met if there had been a reference to the rights of indigenous peoples, including indigenous peoples’ right to development, which the Kingdom of Denmark – upon Greenlandic request – consistently has been adducing during the climate negotiations over the last few years prior to the conclusion of the Paris Agreement.

However, it was not possible to secure support for a binding text on the rights of indigenous peoples, and the new climate agreement does not contain legally binding references to the rights of indigenous peoples or the indigenous peoples’ right to development. However, the agreement does refer to the indigenous peoples in the preamble, in which it is stressed that countries in their climate efforts promote, protect and respect the rights of indigenous peoples, and the agreement’s section on adaptation to the climate changes furthermore state that the adaptation efforts must take into account the knowledge held by indigenous peoples.

Naalakkersuisut assessed, however, that these references are inadequate and do not help to ensure Greenland’s aim for future industrial development of the country, as it was formulated in the mandate from Naalakkersuisut to Naalakkersuisoq of Industry, Labour, Trade and Foreign Affairs prior to the climate summit.

Greenland shall continue to report, together with Denmark, to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change every four years. The Reporting – also known as the National Communication – collects statistics on emissions and reduction initiatives and reports on how the climate changes affect Greenland and Denmark in a broader context.

Greenland fully complies with the objectives of the climate convention – and is still fully covered by the climate convention itself – and notes with satisfaction that with the Paris Agreement a binding global agreement has been achieved which seeks to keep temperature increases below 2 degrees celsius from the pre-industrial level.

For Arctic peoples this is of great importance since current temperature increases have been shown to affect the Arctic twice as hard as the rest of the world. This has significant implications to the people of Greenland and other indigenous peoples who to a high degree live with and off nature.

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