The People vs. Arctic Oil – Oslo

Oslo District Court has set the date. On November 14th, 2017 Norway’s first climate lawsuit begins. For the first time, article 112 of the Norwegian Constitution – the Eco-Article – will be tried in court.

The organizations Nature and Youth and Greenpeace have sued the Norwegian state, represented by the government, for the opening of oil drilling in the Barents Sea.

“Opening our most vulnerable areas in the Arctic for oil drilling is not just a tragedy for the climate, but it is also in direct conflict with the goals we have committed to through the Paris Agreement and the Eco-Article in the Norwegian Constitution,” said Truls Gulowsen, head of Greenpeace in Norway.

Norway was one of the first countries to ratify the Paris agreement in June 2016. Together with the EU, the country has committed itself to cutting 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Nevertheless, in June 2016, the government shared permits to drill for oil in new areas of the Barents Sea through the 23rd licensing round.

“What the politicians call an” oil adventure “in the north will in fact be a nightmare for us who will inherit the globe. If we allow more oil drilling in the Arctic, we also allow oil companies to ruin our common future. This is unacceptable”, said Ingrid Skjoldvær, Head of Nature and Youth.

The world has to limit global warming to 2 or 1.5 degrees to avoid catastrophic and irreversible climate consequences, according to the UN. Article 112 of the Constitution states that it is the State that is responsible for protecting nature and the environment for future generations.

Climate change lawsuits are being raced around the world, but Norway is one of the first to go to court. The plaintiffs will call in both climate researchers and social economists to testify.

About the lawsuit

On October 18th Nature and Youth and Greenpeace, with a wide support of civil society organisations and strong voices from around the world, filed a lawsuit against the Norwegian government for allowing oil companies to drill for new oil in the melting Arctic.

Violates Paris Agreement

Norway was among the first countries in the world to ratify the Paris Agreement and promised to help limiting the temperature increase to 1.5°C. Just weeks later the same government, for the first time in 20 years, opened up new oil licence rounds in the melting Arctic allowing the state-owned Statoil and 12 other oil companies to start a major new exploration campaign in the Barents Sea in 2017. The Norwegian government is thereby violating their global climate promises.

Violates the Norwegian constitution

The lawsuit argues that the Norwegian government should uphold the constitutional right for future generations as it is written in article 112 of the Norwegian Constitution:

“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. The authorities of the state shall take measures for the implementation of these principles”.

Here you can read the full lawsuit submission document that was handed in to the court when the case was filed – stating the key legal arguments.