The People vs. Arctic Oil

The Arctic is Ground Zero for Climate Change. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
In an unprecedented legal case, the Norwegian government is being sued by Nature and Youth and Greenpeace Nordic for opening up new oil fields in the Arctic.
With the backing of a wide coalition, the two environmental organizations have on the 18th October 2016 filed a historic people-powered legal case against the Norwegian government for granting licenses to allow oil drilling in new areas of the Norwegian Arctic for the first time in 20 years. The plaintiffs argue that Norway thereby violates the Paris Climate Agreement and the right to a healthy and safe environment for future generations as stated in the Norwegian Constitution.
The case will be presented in the Oslo District Court in November 2017. It will be the first case that challenges drilling for new oil and gas based on the Paris agreement, and it will be the first time the rights contained in Norwegian Constitutional Article §112 are invoked in Court, which could set an international precedent for future climate cases around the world.

This People vs Arctic Oil court case is about holding countries to account for the Paris Agreement and it’s 1.5°C warming limit. It’s about turning political promises into real change -for the survival, safety, and health of people all over the world and for future generations.

The plaintiffs

Nature and Youth is the largest environmental youth organization in Norway. They have more than 70 local groups all across Norway which work with different environmental causes where they live. The organization includes more than 7500 members. They are well respected and have a strong standing in Norway. They are part of the Friends of the Earth network, but it is
the Norwegian entity, Nature and Youth, that is a co-plaintiff in this case. Greenpeace is an independent global network that acts to change attitudes and behavior, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace. Greenpeace does not accept money from governments, political parties or corporations. Greenpeace comprises 26 independent national/regional organizations in over 55 countries across Africa, Europe, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific, as well as a coordinating body,
Greenpeace International. It is the regional office Greenpeace Nordic that is co-plaintiff in this case.

“We will argue in court that the Norwegian government has an obligation to keep its climate promises and will invoke the people’s right to a healthy environment for ours and future generations. This is the People vs. Arctic oil,” Ingrid Skjoldvær of Nature and Youth said.

“Signing an international climate agreement while throwing open the door to Arctic oil drilling is a dangerous act of hypocrisy,” Truls Gulowsen of Greenpeace Norway said. “By allowing oil companies to drill in the Arctic, Norway risks undermining global efforts to address climate change. When the government fails to redress this we have to do what we can to stop it.”

Oil companies in the 23rd oil licensing round

The 13 oil companies that have new license blocks in the 23rd licensing round in the Barents Sea are: Statoil (Norway), Capricorn and Centrica (UK), Chevron and ConocoPhillips (USA), DEA (Germany), Det norske/merged with BP (Norway), Idemitsu (Japan), Lukoil (Russia), Lundin Petroleum (Sweden), OMV (Austria), PGNiG (Norway/ Poland), Tullow (UK / Africa).
The Norwegian state owned oil company Statoil have announced they want to drill 5 to 7 new oil wells in the Arctic in 2017 – including the most northerly blocks ever licensed in Norway. In 2017 it is only Statoil that has announced they will begin their drilling operation in the 23rd licensing round. Statoil was founded as a state owned oil company and is still 67% controlled by the Norwegian State. Besides the Oil Fund, Statoil is Norway’s biggest financial asset, which the country can use to promote its political ends. It is therefore particularly questionable that Norway, which is committed to ambitious climate targets and Arctic protection, allows its oil company to pursue a different agenda including Arctic drilling. Statoil is now in many respects the most aggressive player in the Arctic and is going ahead with its 2017 drilling operation without waiting for the case to be settled in court.

These are the specifics of the different commitments of the companies:

April 22: Norway signs Paris Agreement
May 18: Norwegian government offer new oil licenses in the Arctic
June 10: Norwegian government award new oil licenses in the Arctic
June 21: Norway ratify the Paris Agreement
Aug 30: Statoil announces a massive drilling campaign
Oct 18: Greenpeace and Nature and Youth file lawsuit

Feb 14: The Oslo District Court announces trial dates
Nov 14: Climate case is presented in court

The Paris Agreement

Norway was among the first countries in the world to sign the Paris Climate Agreement and the first industrialized nation to ratify it. The Paris Agreement shows that the countries which have signed the agreement agree on: Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change. The 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement means that Arctic oil, among others, becomes unburnable. In light of science, this oil has to stay in the ground even for 2°C maximum temperature increase. Granting the new licenses in the Arctic cannot be reconciled with what Norway committed to when it signed and ratified the Paris Agreement.

The Norwegian Constitution §112

Based on the Norwegian Constitution Article §112 we are challenging the Norwegian government’s decision to award new oil blocks in the 23rd licensing round in June 2016. Article 112 of Norway’s Constitution was almost unanimously passed by Parliament in 2014. This is the official translation


Every person has the right to an environment that is conducive to health and to a natural environment whose productivity and diversity are maintained. Natural resources shall be managed on the basis of comprehensive long-term considerations which will safeguard this right for future generations as well. In order to safeguard their right in accordance with the foregoing paragraph, citizens are entitled to information on the state of the natural environment and on the effects of any encroachment on nature that is planned or carried out. The authorities of the state shall take measures for the implementation of these principles.

In Court, we will invoke the constitutional right to a healthy and safe environment for future generations as stated in §112. It is the first time this has ever been done.

You can join the hundred thousand’s who have signed their support here: 

You can read the subpoena here:

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