climate change

TV review: Borgen is back and its key focus is the climate crisis

Photo credit: Netflix.

By Anders Lorenzen

Nearly a decade ago, the Danish political drama Borgen gained international fame and recognition, depicting the life and travails of Denmark’s first female Prime Minister. Coincidentally, only months after the show premiered, Helle Thorning- Schmidt was elected as Denmark’s first female Prime Minister.

Borgen is back in 2022, albeit with a slightly different title: Borgen: Power and Glory. Whilst creator Adam Price remains in place, the show has a much larger international reach as it’s streaming on Netflix.

The overarching focus of this fourth season is the climate crisis and the geopolitical tensions it brings. The plot was conceived during a conversation between Price and former Danish Climate and Energy Minister (and later Foreign Secretary) Martin Lidegaard, who incidentally served in Thorning-Schmidt’s government. Climate and energy have been a constant focus of Lidegaard throughout his career. Prior to his political career, he co-founded the green think-tank Concito.

A controversial issue

The plot in Borgen: Power and Glory centres around a fictitious event that many Danish and global green groups, climate advocates and security experts have feared for years – that of a significant oil discovery in Greenland. Such a find, of course, not only risks destabilising the climate further but also challenges climate targets, and the possibility of geopolitical tensions and clashes between Denmark, China, Russia and the US.

As the plot of Series Four plays out. Denmark initially opposes the extraction of the Greenlandic oil discovery, creating strong tensions between the Danish and Greenlandic governments. What makes this issue more tricky is that due to legally binding agreements between Denmark and Greenland – the latter is in control of its own natural resources but Denmark is in charge of mitigating foreign security issues.

Without creating spoilers, we witness Denmark’s government changing course several times on whether or not the oil should be extracted, how it should be extracted and how much income Denmark should receive from the oil. The switching positions and deliberations of the protagonists make for entertaining as well as thought-provoking viewing.

The key protagonist remains Birgitte Nyborg, now Foreign Secretary in the Danish government and divorced mother of two; to further complicate matters, her adult son Magnus has become a very proactive and vocal climate activist whose views do not always align with his mother’s.

Realistic fiction

While Borgen’s is a fictional storyline, the themes are very topical.

Many have long feared new oil discoveries in the Arctic; Greenpeace has several times campaigned against Arctic oil extraction in Greenland and elsewhere in the region. They’re rightly concerned about the implications of an oil discovery in the very sensitive region. In 2013, 30 Greenpeace activists were jailed in Russia for protesting a Russian oil rig operating in what was international Arctic waters.  

However, oil activity in Greenland is unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future, as the recently elected left-leaning Greenlandic government is opposed to any extractive industries operating in their sensitive environment. They even put a stop to rare-earth mining when they took office in 2021. But as we know, political directions can shift fast given enough incentive. 

Borgen: Power and Glory is currently streaming on Netflix. Regional availabilities may vary.

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