Norwegian government to Supreme Court over Arctic oil

Youth activists and environmentalists will face the Norwegian government in the Supreme Court over oil drilling in the Arctic. The climate court case, also known as The People vs. Arctic Oil, could outlaw new oil drilling in the Arctic and set a precedent for similar climate cases all over the world.

“Opening up the Arctic for oil drilling in the time of climate emergency is unacceptable, and the Norwegian government must be held accountable. We hope and believe that the Supreme Court will acknowledge the Norwegian State’s substantial impact on the climate crisis and judge the Arctic oil licenses invalid”, said Frode Pleym, head of Greenpeace Norway.

Greenpeace Nordic and Young Friends of the Earth Norway sued the Norwegian government for opening up the Arctic for oil drilling in 2016. The organisations state that the new oil licences are in violation of the Norwegian Constitution, which establishes the right to a healthy environment and the duty of the government to safeguard this right for future generations.

The co-plaintiffs are backed by the interveners Grandparents’ Climate Campaign and Friends of the Earth Norway, and have been supported by legal submissions written by, among others, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment.

One week prior to the hearing in the Supreme Court, a political scandal unfolded in Norway. Through the climate lawsuit it was revealed that the government had withheld a secret report from the Parliament showing that oil drilling could generate huge economic losses for Norway. The government already knew in 2012 that exploration might be unprofitable, but neither the taxpayers nor the Parliament were let in on the secret, therefore the Parliament approved the opening of new oil fields without key information.

Even though the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the State in January 2020, the judgement already then contained important victories for the organisations. The court ruled that the Constitution does grant a right to a healthy environment and that the scope of Norway’s responsibilities includes the environmental harm caused by emissions from Norwegian oil burned abroad.

Contrary to its otherwise green image, Norway is the seventh biggest exporter of climate-wrecking emissions on the planet, and the country has more active oil fields now than ever before.

“It is obvious that Norway has a responsibility not to produce more oil and gas than what the climate can take. To explore for more oil and gas is to torpedo future generations chances of growing up in a healthy climate”, said Therese Hugstmyr Woie, head of Young Friends of the Earth Norway.

The judgement is expected in December 2020 or January 2021. The exact date for the judgement will most likely be announced on the last day of the Supreme Court hearing, on 12 November.

* More information on the report withheld by the Norwegian government here

* Greenpeace International