The EU’s biggest oil producer has taken a huge step: It’s ending oil production by 2050

Denmark has just taken an important step to lead the world in the fight against climate change. The country has announced that it will phase out all North Sea oil and gas exploration contracts by 2050. It is the first major oil-producing country to take such an important step.

Following a December 3 vote, the Danish parliament almost completely banned companies from receiving new licenses to hunt and extract oil. The deal will also be To cancel an eighth round of licenses that was to take place. Licenses issued before the vote will be honored until 2050.

“We are the largest oil producer in the European Union and this decision will therefore have an echo around the world”, said Danish Climate Minister Dan Jorgensen said Thursday.

Decision to end oil and gas contracts by 2050 will not be cheap, as is estimated cost Denmark $ 2.1 billion, but the country seems ready to foot the bill. “It’s a tough decision, it’s a costly decision, but it’s the right decision,” Jorgensen Told the Washington Post.

Denmark extracts oil and gas from the North Sea since 1972. Tax revenues from oil and gas production have greatly benefited its economy, helping to Danish welfare state that takes care of its citizens throughout their lives.

But ending oil and gas extraction and exploration, experts say, is the only way for Denmark to meet the European Union’s climate commitment. In October, the European Union vote reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60% from 1990’s levels by 2030.

The decision, which was adopted by an overwhelming majority, reinforced the Union’s commitment to the 2016 Paris Agreement, signaling Europe’s serious commitment to end the emergency. climate.

Denmark’s plans bring the country into line with regional goals.

“It is taking a step that will likely ensure that Denmark can achieve this target within the EU of reducing emissions to the point where it can achieve carbon neutrality by 2050”, Wil Burns, professor and co-director of the Institute for Carbon Removal Law & Policy at American University, told me. “And that’s the only way they could do that.”

Climate protesters gather around Parliament on opening day, October 6, 2020, in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Ole Jensen / Getty Images

The vote also came due to increased pressure at home. Copenhagen, the Danish capital, announced plans end of 2019 to become the first carbon neutral capital in the world, achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2025.

And like Reuters reported in June, the Danish Council on Climate Change, an independent body that advises the Danish government, has called for an end to oil and gas activities to save Denmark’s credibility as a leader in the fight against climate change.

“A Danish stop for further exploration of the North Sea could send a strong signal in international climate policy and could even encourage other countries to follow suit,” the council said at the time.

The international environmental activist organization Greenpeace expressed its support for the decision on Twitter, announcing the decision as a “historic decision”.

End of oil production by 2050 has been hailed – and criticized

The move was also welcomed by EU government officials, including Finnish Environment and Climate Minister Krista Mikkonen, who applauded the decision via Twitter saying the world needs more leaders on climate change.

Some other environmental groups were also happy. “It’s a huge victory for the climate movement”, Helene Hagel of Greenpeace Denmark said in a report. She added that Denmark has “a moral obligation to end the search for new oil to send a clear signal that the world can and must act to respect the Paris Agreement and alleviate the climate crisis.”

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg was far less impressed, however, tweeting that the move means Denmark will continue to extract oil and gas for another 30 years.

Denmark’s decision shows that Paris and regional and national emission reduction commitments are starting to have a real impact – and that’s good.

As the leading oil producer in the European Union, Denmark’s decision is significant, but other oil-producing countries must make a similar commitment if there is any hope of meeting the Paris Agreement target of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.

“You’re going to need a lot of other countries, especially the big oil and gas producers, to step in,” Burns told me. “Norway and the UK both feel compelled to remain leaders in pursuing the climate agenda.”

While the UK and Norway are both major oil-producing countries and located outside the EU, the desire to take the lead on climate change could push nations to make stronger commitments.

On December 3, the UK announced ambitious plans reduce emissions by 68% from 1990 levels by 2030. A report also calls for UK oil and gas companies to phase out North Sea production and make the transition to renewable energy sources. Peer pressure could also help lead the way.

Neighboring Norway, Burns noted, is a much larger producer of fossil fuels, so a commitment to end oil and gas extraction would be a much more dramatic step for that country.

“If the United States, this year or next, starts to come back as a positive force on climate, that, with measures like this from Denmark, could put pressure on other countries to they do, ”Burns said.