A little over a month ago, the Danish government pledged to end all future oil and gas exploration in the North Sea as part of a plan to phase out fossil fuel extraction by 2050—becoming the second European nation to call an end to fossil fuel exploration and taking a stunning lead in climate leadership.
“When the calendar reads 2050, the oil and gas valves will be turned off for good, in line with our commitment to climate neutrality stipulated by the Danish Climate Act. We will cancel all future licensing rounds marking an end to fossil exploration by state invitation in Denmark, effective immediately”.– Danish Minister for Climate, Energy and Utilities, Dan Jørgensen.
In the ground-breaking Parliamentary decision, it was established that all future exploration rounds for oil and gas in the North Sea will be cancelled, and a final cutoff date for fossil fuel extraction was officially set for 2050.
Through this historic moment, Denmark will become the biggest producer worldwide to establish a final phase-out date for fossil fuel extraction so far—a decision that according The Guardian, is projected to cost the Nordic country an estimated DKr13bn (£1.6bn) in lost revenue.
The unprecedented state decision seeks to assist Denmark, the biggest oil producing country in the European Union, in reaching its objective to produce net zero emissions by 2050, in compliance with its Paris Climate Agreement obligations.
In a press release, Helene Hagel, head of climate and environmental policy at Greenpeace Denmark, celebrated the Danish Parliamentary decision as “a watershed moment” and applauded the nation’s efforts to assert itself as a green frontrunner and inspire other countries to do the same.
“Denmark is a small country, but it has the potential to punch above its weight and pave the way for the necessary transition to green, renewable energy. Now, the government and political parties need to take the next step and plan a phase-out of existing oil production in the Danish part of the North Sea by 2040.”Helene Hagel, Head of climate and environmental policy at Greenpeace Denmark.
Green Parties React to the Government’s Pledge
As expected, news of the imminent end to fossil fuel exploration in Denmark were welcomed with elation by the various green political forces in the country. Denmark’s Socialist People’s Party (Socialistisk Folkeparti, SF), a modern and green left-wing party founded in 1959, greeted the news with enthusiasm, taking to social media to share the end of oil hunting in the North Sea with its followers.
Many of the tweets referred to the hard work of Signe Mund, climate and energy rapporteur for the Socialist People’s Party, who according to one of the posts retweeted by SF, fought “like crazy” to stop the oil hunt in the North Sea. SF currently holds 15 seats in the Danish parliament, 2 seats in the European parliament, 128 seats in the city councils and 14 in the regional councils.
The Danish political spectrum features at least two other relevant green parties, namely the more veteran Alternativet (The Alternative), and The Independent Greens (Frie Grønne) – Denmark’s new left-wing party. According to its political leader Sikandar Siddique, Frie Grønne was created last September as a “freedom project” for a green, anti-racist Denmark that accommodates all.
Founded by four former members of The Alternative following a split within the party, Frie Grønne adopted a responsible, climate-conscious and anti-racist position that seeks not only to speak for climate action but to also deliver it, and that strives to rid Danish society of the discrimination and racism that affect it according to many.
Much like the SF Greens, Frie Grønne also took to social media to share the good news with its followers, although with clear skepticism. In a Facebook post from December 5, the youngest Greens in the Danish political spectrum criticized the government’s decision as a “green bluff”, pointing to the fact that Denmark will still be picking up oil for another three decades – something that seems grossly incompatible with achieving CO2 neutrality in 2050.
On their part, The Alternative greens (Alternativet in Danish) have been highly vocal in the past over their disapproval of fossil fuels. Specifically in their manifesto of ideas “The Next Denmark”, which contains a visionary narrative on freedom and community as well as 38 ideas for “a future-proof Denmark”. In their manifesto, The Alternative demand, among other things, the complete cease of fossil fuel use in Denmark by 2035, for which the Party has already proposed “concrete steps”.
Following the news of the landmark Parliamentary decision, the Alternative Greens took to Twitter to reflect on the projected end to Danish fossil fuel exploration in the North Sea. Characterizing the news as “an important victory” in a retweet, Alternativet showed some restraint in its celebration of this milestone, alluding in a separate tweet to the fact the fight against climate change is far from over.
On repeated occasions in the past, Alternativet had demanded the Danish government cease the hunt for new fossil fuels and quit extending tax rebates for oil companies and new tender rounds in the North Sea. The Party believes there are far more fossil fuels in already known reserves than it is justifiable to burn if the goal of keeping us below a temperature rise of 2 degrees is to be achieved. With new oil and gas exploration set to end in 2050, the Party’s concerns have shifted to advocating for the phasing out of fossil fuel burning and the transition to renewable energy.