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Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Greenland

While Greenland is geographically a part of North America, it has been politically and culturally associated with Europe for about a millennium.

In the 7th century, Greenland became part of Denmark and the main direction of Denmark’s colonial policy was the conservation of the traditional forms of the economy and maintaining a close connection of its people with the environment. Denmark stands out for its strong performance on inter-ministerial coordination and a Coordination Committee, headed by the prime minister, oversees environmental initiatives in Greenland and the Faroe Islands. In both committees, ministers with responsibilities in the environmental domain are invited to join the deliberations. in 1989, the responsibility for the environment protection was delegated to the government of Greenland, and since 1992 this responsibility extends to the marine environment around Greenland and its waters

Featured Legislation

1980: Order No. 176 on fishing territory by Greenland was enacted. This Order lays down provisions on delimitation of fishery zones off the coast of Greenland in relation to Canada, in the Nares Straits with two series of geodetic lines between coordinate points specified in the text. The Greenland fishing territory includes the area north of 75 degrees north latitude on the west coast and north of 67 degrees north latitude on the East Coast in addition to the internal waters of a sea area bounded by a line (fishing line) that extends from a distance of 200 nautical miles (1 nautical mile = 1852 meters) from the straight baselines (compass lines) or coastlines extending between the points of low water mark as specified in article 2.

1988:  Greenland issued Basic Law No. 12 on Environmental and Ecological Issues. The purpose of this regulatory legal act was to govern air and water quality, soil pollution prevention and control, and noise pollution. In 2011 this law was replaced by an expanded version with the additions and amendments reflecting the environmental policy of Greenland in the 21st century.. In addition to the goals reflected in the outdated 1988 law, the new regulatory act enshrined the need to limit the use and waste of resources and the importance of the disposal of waste.

1988: Act relative to the transfer of the Greenland Fisheries Research to the Greenland Home Administration was passed. This Act makes provision for the transfer of activities of Greenland Fisheries Research to the Home Government of Greenland. The Act also defines the functions of the Greenland Fisheries Research. This agency shall carry out research in the field of marine and freshwater fisheries in Greenland. The Home Government may issue rules relative to the functioning and duties of the agency.

1989: The fisheries research organization began its work in Greenland, and in 1995 it was renamed as the Greenland Institute of Nature. Its purpose was to study and monitor the environmental and climate changes in Greenland and to provide annual reports to the Government of Greenland on the environmental situation.

1991:Denmark (including Greenland and the Faroe Islands), along with other Arctic states  (Canada, Russia, Norway, Finland, Iceland and Sweden), established the Arctic Environment Protection Strategy (AEPS).

1992: Denmark began to develop climate policy in the Arctic region, in the framework of the 1992 Declaration on the Environment. In 1999, the government of Denmark made the decision to distribute part of the Arctic funds to support the environmental programs in Greenland. The main objectives of the program were the following: conservation and sustainable use of natural resources, environmentally sustainable development of business and the community, monitoring, prevention and reduction of air, water and soil pollution.

1994: The Decree of the Greenland Self-Government No. 35 was issued. The legislation addresses the reduction of environmental pollution by enterprises that do not have a special environmental permit.

1996: The Kingdom of Denmark became a member of the Arctic Council, with the main goal of this organization aimed at developing environmental cooperation in the Arctic region. Greenland was included into six working groups: on the elimination of pollution in the Arctic, on the implementation of the Arctic monitoring and assessment program, on the conservation of Arctic flora and fauna, on the prevention and elimination of emergency situations, on the protection of the Arctic marine environment and on the sustainable development of the Arctic.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

A 2022 report reveals that the ice sheet covering Greenland ismelting rapidly at its base. Scientists discovered that the sheet is releasing far more water and ice into the ocean than previously understood, posing serious ramifications for global sea level rise. The National Academy of Sciences has been recording large quantities of meltwater falling down from the surface and as meltwater falls, its gravitational potential energy is converted to kinetic energy, ultimately warming the water at the base of the ice sheet. In fact, the Academy found that the Greenland ice sheet produces more energy than the world’s 10 largest hydroelectric dams combined. To measure the melt rates, the researchers used a technique developed at the British Antarctic Survey called phase-sensitive radio-echo sounding, a process by which they can measure the thickness of the ice. During warmer months, the meltwater enters lakes and streams on the surface of the ice sheet, draining to the bottom of the ice sheet. Meltwater proves problematic for the environment because it contributes to more melting at the bottom of the ice sheet, serving as a lubricant that promotes faster flow and increasing the quantity of ice discharged into the ocean. If steps are not taken to prevent climate change, the Greenland sheets will continue to melt on the surface faster than the snowfall can keep up with.

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