The science-policy exchange between Greenland and Switzerland will be held from 3-5 April 2023 in Switzerland. This latest collaboration aims at bringing together stakeholders from both countries concerned with natural hazard risks and sustainable development of areas affected by climate warming and changes in the cryosphere.

Amplified climate warming at the three poles of the Earth is increasing the risk of natural hazards, primarily as a result of rapid changes in the cryosphere. Greenland has recently been affected by several mass movements triggering process chains and devastation along inhabited coasts. One of the most known examples is the June 17, 2017 landslide at Karrat Fjord, where large masses falling of rock and debris fell into the sea to trigger a tsunami that claimed the lives of four persons in the settlement of Nuugaatsiaq and destroyed most of the village. Ongoing instabilities in this area continue to threaten the local population. Consequently, the Greenland Government installed the first landslide monitoring system ever in Greenland in summer 2022. In addition to the hazard assessment, there is a need to develop an integrated management and policies tailored to natural hazards and risks. Switzerland has a long history of dealing with natural hazards in the mountains and has extensive experience in research and governance of natural hazards, from local to national levels.

The Swiss Government delegates from the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI), the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) as well as delegates and local representatives from the Cantons of Bern and Valais will meet with the Greenland Government officials from the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Justice, the Ministry of Agriculture, Self-Sufficiency, Energy and Environment, representatives of the Avannaata Municipality and the University of Greenland.

On the first day in Bern, the Greenlandic delegation and SERI, FDFA, and FOEN will discuss about natural hazard risks and management and scientific capacity at national level. On the following two days, exchanges with cantonal and local stakeholders are planned, as well as field visits to areas where mass movements are currently monitored in the regions of Kandersteg (BE) and Zermatt (VS). Both days will focus on early warning infrastructure and the processes around integrated risk management, exploring avenues for solutions regarding civil protection and decision-making processes.

The current exchange between Greenland and Switzerland stems from a joint initiative established in 2022 between the Swiss Polar Institute (SPI) and the Greenland Research Council (NIS), through a Konrad Steffen Grant. The Konrad Steffen Grants, in memory of the late world-renowned Swiss glaciologist, build on his legacy of collaborative research between the two countries. During a workshop held in Nuuk in March 2022, Swiss and Greenlandic scientists defined areas of concerted interest on the topic of natural hazards, a bottom-up collaborative development of projects, and the inclusion of policy stakeholders from local to national levels. The resulting activities aim to create active two-way bridges between scientists and practitioners concerned with natural hazards in polar and high-altitude areas.

“Greenland and Switzerland are both exposed to increasing risks from natural hazards related to collapsing glaciers and permafrost thawing with climate warming. These risks are threatening our people and infrastructure. With this visit initiated through the Koni Steffen grant we want to provide a platform for exchange on our experiences and shared problems around natural hazards, and to explore collaboration opportunities between Greenland and Switzerland in science, technology, and policy.

Gabriela Schaepman-Strub, Scientific Director, Swiss Polar Institute

“Switzerland has started to systematically deal with natural hazards and risks several decades ago, and has become a worldwide leader in the integrated management of risks. It is a privilege to share this knowledge on how to best protect people in the most equitable and sustainable way with colleagues in regions where problems start to emerge due to climate warming and permafrost thawing. By doing so, I am convinced that the insights that we gain on large landslides occurring in Greenland will also help Switzerland to better understand some of the massive instabilities that we now observe at high altitudes in the Swiss Alps.”

Markus Stoffel, head of the Climate Change Impacts and Risks in the Anthropocene (C-CIA) group at the Institute for Environmental Sciences, University of Geneva, and coordinator of this science-policy exchange

More information

Schweiziske fjeldskredsspecialister viser deres ekspertise (Government of Greenland press release)
State Secretary Martina Hirayama receives delegation from Greenland (
Delegation from Greenland to visit Switzerland (

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