Return to Content

Environmentalists take Arctic oil drilling to Supreme Court

Oslo, Norway, 24 February 2019 – History is being written as environmentalist organisations take the Norwegian government to the Supreme Court over oil licences in the Arctic.

“Opening up the pristine areas in the Arctic for oil drilling in the time of climate emergency is not acceptable. We hope and believe that the Supreme Court will find the climate crisis to be a global problem and recognize Norway’s substantial impact. The use of oil and gas produced in Norway and burned elsewhere contributes to 10 times the domestic emissions of Norway”, said Frode Pleym, head of Greenpeace Norway.

Greenpeace Nordic and Nature and Youth sued the Norwegian government for handing out oil drilling licences in new areas in the Arctic in 2016. The organisations claim the licences are in violation of the Norwegian Constitution, which establishes the right to a healthy environment and places on the government a duty to uphold this right for current and future generations. The co-plaintiffs are backed by the interveners Grandparents’ Climate Campaign and Friends of the Earth Norway.

“This case is part of a growing wave of climate lawsuits. People all over the world are stepping up for the climate, and more than 600 climate cases have been filed worldwide to assert the rights of people impacted by the climate crisis. The Urgenda lawsuit which won in the Dutch Supreme Court establishes State responsibility for concrete action to address the climate crisis. That gives us a lot of hope when we now take this case to the Supreme Court”, said Pleym.

Fra venstre: Frode Pleym (Greenpeace), Gaute Eiterjord (Natur og Ungdom) FOTO: Thor Due/Natur og Ungdom

Even though the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the State, the judgement still contains 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 the burning of Norwegian oil elsewhere.

“The Court of Appeal judgement ruled that Norway is responsible for emissions from exported oil produced in Norway. The Supreme Court has an opportunity to uphold this ruling, and rightly assert the responsibility of Norway for the total emissions following activities in Norway. This would be a major victory for the shared global climate effort”, said Pleym.

Norway is the 7th biggest exporter of climate-wrecking emissions on the planet, and the country has more active oil fields than ever before. Contrary to its otherwise green image, Norway is forecasting an upsurge in oil and gas production in 2020.

“The world has found more oil, coal and gas than we can burn if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change. 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 Nature and Youth.

The organisations expect the Norwegian Supreme Court to announce if they will hear the case during the spring.

Documents and photos

  • Media briefing here
  • Legal documents here
  • Press photos here

Notes

  • This is the first case to challenge the drilling for oil and gas based on the Paris Agreement, and it is the first time the rights contained in Norwegian Constitutional Article §112 is invoked in court.
  • The plaintiffs have filed the legal case against the Norwegian government for granting oil licenses to 13 companies in the 23rd licensing round in the Barents Sea.
  • The oil companies are Equinor (formerly Statoil, Norway), Capricorn, Tullow and Centrica (UK), Chevron and ConocoPhillips (USA), DEA (Germany), Aker BP (Norway), Idemitsu (Japan), Lukoil (Russia), Lundin Petroleum (Sweden), OMV (Austria), PGNiG (Norway/Poland). 
  • Since the lawsuit was filed, Chevron and Tullow Oil Norge have sold their share in the licenses. Centrica Resources and Bayerngaz Norge have merged into Spirit Energy.

 

Contacts

  • Frode Pleym, head of Greenpeace Norway. Mobile: +47 97307378
  • Therese Hugstmyr Woie, head of Nature and Youth: +47 90727377
  • Aud Hegli Nordø, Communications Manager of Greenpeace Norway: +47 41470649

Del denne saken