Last month, James Gray, MP North Wiltshire, led a cross-party group of MPs and Peers on a visit to Greenland to learn more about how a combination of environmental, economic and geopolitical changes are transforming the country’s prospects.
The group comprised members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Polar Regions, which Mr Gray chairs. In addition to Mr Gray, they were Stephen Hepburn MP, John Mann MP, Mark Menzies MP, Brendan O’Hara MP, Rt Hon Baroness Neville-Jones, Baroness Smith of Newnham and Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP.
The group’s trip began in Copenhagen where meetings were held with the Danish Government and Greenland’s Representative in Copenhagen. Greenland remains an integral part of the Kingdom of Denmark although the Self Government Act of 2009 has put the world’s largest island on the path to eventual independence, if it can build a large enough economy to end its financial dependence on a block grant from Denmark.
In Greenland, the group travelled first to Kangerlussuaq where British scientists from Loughborough University and the University of Sheffield were working to understand how Greenland’s environment is being altered by climate change. Mr Gray said: “British Arctic science is often overshadowed by what we do in Antarctica and we must do more to ensure that Britain’s world-class science in the Arctic has the visibility it deserves”.
The group then spent a busy two days in Nuuk, meeting with “Inatsisartut” (Greenland’s Parliament) and Greenlandic government officials. In Nuuk, the group also met with Denmark’s Joint Arctic Command (responsible for Greenland’s defence and security), local and national business associations, local scientists and the newly opened WWF office. Mr Gray said: “After visiting Nuuk, I would say that Britain needs to pay more attention to what is happening in Greenland. The Americans are there, the Chinese are there, but Britain needs to do more. Brexit could be just the opportunity to re-examine our relationship with Greenland”.
After visiting the capital, the group headed north to Ilulissat to learn more about the benefits and challenges brought about by tourism in Greenland. Mr Gray said: “Tourism is increasingly important to Greenland, which looks to Iceland as a model. However, questions remain over who is benefitting. For example, the rising number of cruise ships in Greenlandic waters are contributing very little to Greenland’s coffers”.
Following the trip, Mr Gray said “We were delighted to have had the opportunity to visit Greenland and meet such a diverse range of stakeholders. Greenland is important to Britain for many reasons, most notably science, but in the future potentially also for business. We really must do more to build-up Britain’s relationship with Greenland”.