The right to 'sustainable development' and Greenland’s lack of a climate policy

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The 2015 International Panel on Climate Change report states that greenhouse gas emissions accelerate despite reduction efforts and that emissions grew more quickly between 2000 and 2010 than in each of the three previous decades. Greenland and the Arctic environment are subject to profound change and the international research community talks about “a new Arctic reality” (SWIPA 2011). The message from science is that “we need to move away from business as usual” as substantial emission reduction is needed to avoid dangerous levels of interference with the climate system (IPCC 2015). So why do the politicians and the business communities still think that this does not apply to Greenland? “Sustainability” and most of all “sustainable development” was mentioned often at the Future Greenland conference, whereas climate change was absent in most of the conversations. Looking back at the event, Arctic sustainability was primarily understood as a developmental doctrine and less as an environmental doctrine. When considering the relationship between climate change and sustainability, climate change is often considered a challenge to “achieving sustainable development” which, in turn, is often described as the end goal. In an UNESCO publication from 2009 it is pinpointed that: “two environmental problems in particular will be crucial constraints to Arctic sustainable development: climate change and loss of biodiversity” (Funston in Nakashima 2009: 298). A critical reading of reports and assessments about changes in the Arctic reveal the inconvenient truth about the blurred relationship between climate change and sustainability. The connection is presented as so obvious, that climate change seems to work as a proxy for sustainability in the texts and end up being absent/present in many discussions related to the future of the Arctic (and the future of Greenland).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPolitics of Sustainability in the Arctic : Reconfiguring Identity, Space, and Time
EditorsUlrik Pram Gad, Jeppe Strandsbjerg
Number of pages15
Place of PublicationRoutledge
Publication date5 Nov 2018
ISBN (Print)978-1-138-49183-0, 978-1-351-03198-1
Publication statusPublished - 5 Nov 2018
EventPolitics of Sustainability in the Arctic: Concluding workshop - Nuuk, Greenland
Duration: 22 Aug 201724 Aug 2017


WorkshopPolitics of Sustainability in the Arctic
SeriesRoutledge Studies in Sustainability


  • sustainability
  • Arctic
  • Greenland
  • Sustainable development
  • Climate change
  • politics
  • Governance
  • Paris Agreement
  • climate adaptation
  • Erhvervspolitik


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