For the past four years I've been visiting the beautiful country of Greenland, trying to prevent dangerous oil drilling that would cause havoc to the unique and fragile wildlife and nature here.
But ever since I started working in the cold north, the people who live here, who have an inherent right to the lands and oceans, have asked me again and again what kind of future Greenpeace sees for them. They ask if we believe all of Greenland and its inhabitants should live in a 'natural museum' without any opportunities for development. These people are concerned because they have a strong desire for development in Greenland, to see the country and its people grow.
I strongly believe that oil drilling in the Arctic is a bad idea and a reckless course that can only lead to disaster – not only for the environment, but also for the many communities and people that depend on the oceans.
I also believe that Greenpeace can be part of the solution. We have to make sure we're helping finding solutions to the complex problems at hand as well – not only for the environment, but also for the people, who are facing hard choices about industrial development in this beautiful country.
In Greenland there is a tendency to label all criticism of large-scale projects – be it oil drilling or mining – as anti-development. This makes it hard to have a more fundamental discussion of the path Greenland should choose
So in the summer of 2013 we commissioned a report from a major Danish consultancy company, Ramboll. We asked them to look at the different possibilities for development in Greenland. The consultancy spent more than 6 months looking at the major sectors in Greenland (fisheries, tourism, mining, sealing and agriculture), and has spent large resources on analyzing and identifying tools, which can help increase the generation of local income and job creation.
Before we commissioned the report, I was very nervous for the result. We didn't control the process and the consultancy could in principle have concluded that the increasing gap in the Greenlandic economy only could be covered via reckless oil drilling and heavily polluting mining projects. Fortunately, this is far from the case. Instead the report shows that there is a vast potential for a more sustainable development, socially, economically and environmentally.
By using these tools, the national income from key sectors (especially fisheries, tourism and limited mining) can increase by more than 50% within the next ten years.
Today Ramboll will present the report in Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, and afterwards I will engage in a public debate with representatives from the industry, as well as the head of the local environmental organization, Avataq, the minister for treasury and other leading politicians. I look forward to hearing which recommendations they find compelling, and to discussing whether there is any real need for oil exploration in Greenland.
The report is of course not the entire solution, and even within the suggestions there are pitfalls, which needs to be taken seriously. But I sincerely hope that the report can help move the discussion away from pro- or anti-development towards a new conversation. We need to start talking about how to achieve sustainable development for the benefit of all Greenlanders, with a respectful and cautious approach towards the incredible Arctic nature I see all around me.
The English version of the report can be found here.