‘People’ sue state over Arctic oil

Bookmark and Share

Two environmental organizations, backed by what they called a wide range of Norwegian groups and individuals, went ahead on Tuesday with plans to sue the Norwegian government for allowing oil companies to drill for new oil in the Arctic. They argue that Norway is thus violating the terms of the Paris Agreement to cut carbon emissions, along with “the people’s constitutional rights to a healthy and safe environment for future generations.”

Ingrid Skjoldvær, head of Nature and Youth, and Truls Gulowsen, head of Greenpeace Norway, hold their legal claim against the Norwegian government while posing with supporters including author Jostein Gaarder (back row, at left). PHOTO: Greenpeace/Christian Åslund

Ingrid Skjoldvær, head of Nature and Youth, and Truls Gulowsen, head of Greenpeace Norway, hold their legal claim against the Norwegian government while posing with supporters including author Jostein Gaarder (back row, at left). PHOTO: Greenpeace/Christian Åslund

Greenpeace Nordic and the environmental organization Natur og Ungdom (Nature and Youth) are the official plaintiffs in a lawsuit they contend is supported by scientists, indigenous leaders, activists and public figures.

A group of around 200 Norwegian authors, academic experts and other celebrities warned last year that they would sue if the government failed to halt the latest licensing rounds for further oil and gas exploration in the Barents Sea. Among them was author Jostein Gaarder, who was among those photographed in the plaintiff group on Tuesday.

The licensing round has since been announced, amidst both praise and harsh criticism. Prime Minister Erna Solberg of the Conservative Party has been blasted for her devotion to oil, while Oil & Energy Minister Tord Lien has been repeatedly challenged over his opening of new Arctic oil fields amidst worldwide commitments to cut carbon emissions.

Another challenge to the government’s bullish approach to oil, which has made Norway affluent and supports its welfare state, emerged this week when the leader of one of Norway’s major trade union federations spoke out against oil exploration off Lofoten, Vesterålen and Senja and called for cuts in production from existing fields. The call from Fellesforbundet’s leader Mette Nord marks a sharp deviation from other labour organizations’ support for oil exploration and production, because of the jobs it creates.

The plaintiffs in the new lawsuit are also concerned, as is Nord, that Norway will break its promise to cut carbon emissions. “Signing an international climate agreement (to cut emissions) while throwing open the door to Arctic oil drilling is a dangerous act of hypocrisy,” claimed Truls Gulowsen, head of Greenpeace Norway. “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.”

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

Among oil companies with new licenses in the Barents Sea are Norway’s own Statoil, Lukoil of Russia, Chevron and ConocoPhillips of the US, DEA of Germany, Idemitsu of Japan, Aker BP of Norway, Capricorn and Centrica of the UK, Lundin Petroleum of Sweden, OMV of Austria PGNiG of Norway and Poland and Tullow of the UK.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund