If not Norway, then who? If not now, then when?
The Bogarting Court of Appeals in Norway will hear appeals from non-profit organisations Greenpeace and Nature and Youth today against oil drilling in the Barents Sea. Photo: Mitja Kobal/Greenpeace
In June 2016, Norway’s Petroleum and Energy Ministry awarded ten exploration licenses to 13 drilling companies to conduct operations in the Barents Sea. The organisations argue the licenses threaten people’s right to a healthy environment. The Oslo District Court ruled in 2018 that the licenses are in accordance with the law and that Norway is responsible for emissions only within its territory.
Norway faces a trade-off between economic growth and long-term environmental repercussions beyond its borders. As of May 2019, oil and gas account for 22% of Norwegian GDP and 67% of its exports. However, drilling activities in the Barents Sea harm its Paris Agreement targets of reducing emissions by 40% of 1990 levels by 2030. On a much larger scale, explorations in the Arctic region are estimated to result in 12 gigatonnes of carbon emissions over the next 50 years.
The Norwegian Government takes after the crazy twins in world politics Donald and Boris – that is they also start cheating with statistics and numbers: stating that emissions are down since 1995 while the benchmark established is 1990 and emissions are up (!)
After all, we have entered a world where the most powerful office is held by an Apprentice President who governs by Twitter and lies 13 times a day.
— Jan Terje Espeland (@jantesays) November 1, 2019
The green groups are expected to argue that the decision would breach a constitutional law, known as section 112, that calls on the government to safeguard a healthy environment for existing and future generations. They also claim the plans would violate the Paris climate agreement.
Norway has pledged to help tackle rising global carbon emissions by divesting fossil fuel investments from its trillion-dollar sovereign wealth fund, but the government has continued to support new oil projects.
Yet total carbon emissions from the fossil fuel-rich country are forecast to climb by 16% this year compared with the previous year after oil companies drilled 130 oil and gas wells in 2019.
The campaigners claim Norway’s total exported greenhouse gas emissions are 10 times bigger than the domestic emissions from its production. Little Norway with its only 5 million inhabitants is the world’s 7th largest exporter of CO2 emissions in the form of oil and gas.
The Norwegian government can no longer ignore the dangerous impact its exported oil is having on the climate. Climate change knows no borders. Oil is oil, no matter where it is burned, and the government needs to cancel all drilling for new oil in the Arctic. Not acting now violates the Paris agreement and Norway’s own constitution. That is why we are back in court.Frode Pleym, the head of Greenpeace Norway,
The green groups first took the government to court in Oslo in 2017 after years of lobbying against oil exploration in the Arctic. The co-plaintiffs will have the backing of Friends of the Earth Norway and the Norwegian Grandparents Climate Campaign.
The appeal comes weeks after the UN special rapporteur on human rights and the environment, David Boyd, delivered a stinging rebuke of the Norwegian government’s oil expansion in a report calling for an end to the country’s search for new oil.
“Norway should stop exploring for additional oil and gas reserves, stop expanding fossil fuel infrastructure, and harness Norwegian wealth and ingenuity to plan a just transition to a fossil fuel-free economy,” he said.
“Norway, as one of the world’s wealthiest nations and one of the world’s leading producers of oil and gas, must accept substantial responsibility for leading efforts in mitigation, adaptation and addressing loss and damage.”
Gaute Eiterjord, the head of Nature and Youth in Norway, said it was deeply concerning to see Norway’s government “bury its head in the sand”.
“It is the government’s obligation to safeguard a safe and healthy environment. The young generation, in Norway and all over the world, is worried about the prospect of an unsafe future,” he said.
It is likely that today’s appeal will be judged along similar lines as the previous ruling—while the people have environmental rights, the licenses are unlikely to be revoked.