19 September 2019

Bronwen Tucker, Oil Change International, bronwen [at] priceofoil [dot] org
David Turnbull, Oil Change International, david [at] priceofoil [dot] org

Report: Continued North Sea oil and gas leasing would undermine Danish climate leadership

Denmark’s plans to expand North Sea oil and fossil gas extraction, if allowed to move forward, will greatly undermine its record of climate action, a new report released today finds.

The report quantifies the potential climate impacts of allowing new North Sea oil and gas projects in the next three decades. It finds that the climate emissions from burning Danish-produced oil and gas would be substantial, overtaking Denmark’s total expected domestic CO2 emissions from energy in the next 5 years.

The report details that if current plans to expand North Sea extraction are left unaddressed Denmark will either meet its domestic emissions targets but export oil and gas with associated emissions that overshadow this domestic progress, or fail to meet its emissions targets and continue to consume more oil and gas domestically than is aligned with its commitments under the Paris Agreement.

“Denmark says it wants to be a climate leader, but this report shows the current plans for Danish oil and gas expansion are incompatible with climate leadership. The new government has a choice – it can start an extraction phase-out by stopping approval of new projects and licenses today, or it can keep enabling climate disaster,” said Bronwen Tucker, report author and analyst with Oil Change International.

Over 60 percent of anticipated emissions related to Denmark’s oil and gas extraction in the coming decades are not yet committed – the projects they are associated with will either require new licenses from the Danish government or final investment decisions (and final government approval) to be developed.

Previous analysis by Oil Change International has shown that, even if coal were phased out overnight, there is enough oil and gas in already-developed and producing fields globally to push the world beyond 1.5°C of global warming.

“With more fossil fuels than we can afford to burn already under development, the climate diplomacy most urgently needed right now is that which keeps oil, gas and coal in the ground. Denmark can lead the way by putting an end to new licensing of the very practices that are driving our climate crisis,” Oil Change International’s Tucker said.

  1. The report puts forward three recommendations:
    Immediately freeze the granting of further leases or permits for new oil and gas extraction projects or transportation infrastructure that would enable additional exploration;
  2. Revoke undeveloped licenses and review whether existing facilities should be phased out early in order to contribute to the achievement of the Paris Agreement; and
  3. Plan and implement a just transition for affected workers and communities in consultation with trade unions and community leaders.

The report comes as world leaders, including high-ranking Danish officials, are set to gather in New York at the United Nations for a climate summit hosted by Secretary General António Guterres to discuss plans to increase ambition on climate action.


  • Notes to editors:
    The report, entitled “The Sky’s Limit Denmark: Why Denmark Must Phase out North Sea Oil and Gas Extraction” can be found here:
  • This report is part of an Oil Change International series of national and sub-national reports based on our global analysis, “The Sky’s Limit: Why the Paris Climate Goals Require a Managed Decline of Fossil Fuel Production,” released in September 2016. That original “Sky’s Limit” can be found here: