Celebrities aim to halt Arctic drilling

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Many of Norway’s most prominent authors, researchers and artists are among a group of 200 academic and legal experts demanding an end to oil and gas exploration in the Arctic. They’re threatening to sue the government if oil drilling and production proceeds, on the grounds it violates Norway’s constitution.

Greenpeace activists boarded the Transocean rig, after Statoil was given the green light on Monday to begin exploration work near the island of Bjørnøya, north of the Arctic Circle. PHOTO: Greenpeace

Greenpeace activists, shown here after boarding a drilling rig in the Arctic, aren’t the only ones opposed to more oil and gas exploration in the Norwegian and Barents seas. Now a large group representing Norway’s cultural elite is threatening to sue the government if the latest round of oil field licensing isn’t cancelled. PHOTO: Greenpeace

Authors Karl Ove Knausgård, Jostein Gaarder and Åsne Seirstad, actor and former Labour Party Culture Minister Ellen Horn, artist Håkon Bleken and former Nobel Institute director Geir Lundestad are among those mounting the campaign “to cancel the state’s 23rd licensing round” now underway. If that doesn’t happen, they claim they will “support a climate lawsuit against the Norwegian state” if licenses are issued for oil field exploration and development.

They’ll base the lawsuit on Paragraph 112 of the Norwegian constitution, which they claim “gives us the right to a livable climate, and commits the state to measures that will secure this right, also for our descendants.”

Calling to leave the oil under the seas
In their written demand to the government, published in newspaper Dagsavisen on Monday, the prominent members of Norway’s cultural elite decried the Conservatives-led government’s decision, (also supported by Labour and other political parties in opposition) to release 57 prospects for more oil and gas exploration in the Norwegian and Barents seas “and all the way up to the Arctic ice edge,” which Conservative Party proceeded to redefine at its annual national meeting over the weekend. Moving the ice edge farther north will allow the state to open new prospective fields for exploration in the Barents.

The 200 people signing the demand to halt the new oil activity comes amidst warnings of ongoing global warming. The group claims that in order to stabilize climate change, around 70 percent of of fossil fuel reserves already discovered must be left in the ground. They think it’s reprehensible for the government to clear the way for even more exploration, citing a recent study that more oil and gas activity in the Arctic can’t be allowed “if we’re to avoid serious and irreversible changes in the climate.”

Long list of luminaries
Those signing the appeal, who also include attorney Cato Schiøtz, former government ministers Tora Aasland and Odd Einar Dørum and even Labour Party luminary Per Kleppe, claim that “leading legal experts” believe all new oil exploration in the Arctic violates Norway’s constitution. They will, in the course of this spring,” cooperate to ensure that a lawsuit against licensing can be carried out.”

They maintain the politicians are defying researchers’ recommendations. Others signing the petition include authors Jon Michelet, Herbjørg Wassmo, Ingvild Rishøi, Erik Fosnes Hansen, Anne B Ragde and Vigdis Hjorth; professors and commentators including Thomas Hylland Eriksen and Sylfest Lomheim and a long list of environmental organizations.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund