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The Danish Parliament said Friday that it will cancel all future licensing rounds for new oil and gas exploration and production permits in the Danish part of the North Sea and end existing production by 2050. (Photo: Henning Bagger / Ritzau Scanpix / AFP via Getty Images)

'We're in a Climate Emergency. Act Accordingly': Greta Thunberg Says Denmark's 30-Year Fossil Fuel Phase-Out Not Fast Enough

"The real news here is that Denmark will apparently go on extracting fossil fuels for another three decades," said climate campaigner Greta Thunberg. 

Julia Conley

While many other climate campaigners treated the announcement as historic, Greta Thunberg early Friday tamped down praise for Denmark's decision to end new oil and gas exploration in the North Sea and phase out existing fossil fuels projects by 2050—indicating that the extended timeline is a betrayal of what the scientific consensus says is needed to avert the worst impacts of the planetary crisis.

"We're in a climate emergency," Thunberg tweeted as a number of climate campaigners applauded Denmark's move. "Act accordingly."

The Danish government has allowed oil and gas production in the North Sea since 1972, becoming the European Union's second-biggest fossil fuel producer after the United Kingdom.

The country controls 55 oil and gas platforms across 20 fields in the sea and produces 103,000 barrels of oil per day—a number that is expected to go up for nearly another decade before Denmark begins its fossil fuel phase-out. According to Greenpeace, oil and gas production in the country is expected to peak in 2028 and 2026, respectively, before it declines. 

Like Thunberg, climate activist João Camargo interpreted the Danish Parliament's news as an announcement of "thirty more years of oil and gas extraction in the North Sea."

"Fossil industries need to die this decade," he tweeted.

"Considering how countries have not yet announced any end of oil exploitation, this is great, Denmark," tweeted Fridays for Future activist Luisa Neubauer, adding that the plan "simply doesn't add up with the climate reality...considering we're in a climate emergency today."

Greenpeace noted that the decision will allocate funds to secure a just transition for impacted fossil fuel workers and called it a "landmark decision towards the necessary phase-out of fossil fuels," crediting climate campaigners for pushing governments around the world to end oil and gas production.

"This is a huge victory for the climate movement and all the people who have pushed for many years to make it happen," said Helene Hagel, head of climate and environmental policy at Greenpeace Denmark. "As a major oil producer in the EU and one of the richest countries in the world, 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 meet the Paris Agreement and mitigate the climate crisis. Denmark is a small country but has the potential to punch above its weight and pave the way for the necessary transition to green, renewable energy."

Danish policymakers should now ensure the country adopts a more ambitious plan, Hagel said, moving toward a phase-out ten years ahead of the schedule put forward in Thursday's announcement.

"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," she said. 

Hannah McKinnon, energy futures and transitions program director at Oil Change International, expressed hope that Denmark's announcement will "kick off a decade of unprecedented ambition" by governments around the world.

"This is a move that should be celebrated, built on, and accelerated. Wealthy, diversified economies like Denmark must act even faster to wind down oil and gas production, whilst supporting affected workers and communities and countries where the transition will be more challenging," said McKinnon. "Next, it will be critical to ensure that the details are airtight and that there are no loopholes for the fossil fuel industry to exploit."

"We look forward to Denmark and other leaders leveraging their national actions into international momentum towards a 1.5ºC-aligned wind down of oil and gas production," she said. 

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