Climate concerns prompt an appeal

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Environmental organizations Greenpeace and Natur og Ungdom  aren’t accepting defeat in an Oslo city court, announcing on Monday that they will appeal for a halt to Arctic oil drilling directly to Norway’s highest court. They continue to claim that expanded oil activity in the Arctic violates Norwegian constitutional guarantees to protect nature and the environment for future generations.

The major climate lawsuit against the Norwegian government has had broad public support, also from celebrities including author Jostein Gaarder (back row, at left). PHOTO: Greenpeace/Christian Åslund

“There is already enough carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to seriously damage our future,” stated Truls Gulowsen, head of Greenpeace in Norway. “By opening up pristine areas for oil exploration, Norway is effectively smuggling its emissions outside of its own borders and furthering climate change, which harms everyone, everywhere.”

Gaute Eiterjord, leader of Natur og Ungdom (Nature and Youth), called the allowance of oil drilling in the Arctic a “direct attack” on today’s youth and future generations. “As one of the richest countries in the world, Norway should be at the forefront of battling climate change,” Eiterjord claimed. “Instead we’re profiting from climate destruction.”

Legal experts encourage appeal
The local court, Oslo Tingrett, concluded earlier this month that the Norwegian government’s decisions to grant new licenses for oil exploration in its Arctic areas did not violate the Norwegian constitution’s paragraph 112, also known as the “environmental paragraph.” That was a huge disappointment for climate activists, and hundreds of people both in Norway and abroad had urged an appeal even though the court also ordered both losing plaintiffs to cover legal and court costs amounting to around NOK 580,000 (USD 75,000).

That’s a lot of money for the two organizations but they heeded the appeal call, in part thanks to both local and international support. Jan Fridthjof Bernt, a law professor at the University of Bergen, was among those urging an appeal. He called the lower court’s decision, which dismissed the relevance of emissions beyond Norway’s actual borders, “a quite absurd interpretation” of the Norwegian constitution. “It’s almost like saying that we’re not responsible for the damage if we send up a rocket that lands in another country,” Bernt told newspaper Aftenposten. He was also highly critical that the lower court charged the environmental organizations for the state’s court costs.

Donations poured in to finance an appeal
The organizations, meanwhile, claim that more than half-a-million people have signed petitions in favour of the evidence Greenpeace has presented in court. A Norwegian group made up of grandparents has also backed the lawsuit. Newspaper Dagavisen reported that around 600 people have impulsively sent hundreds of thousands of kroner to the two environmental organizations during the past few weeks, to help finance an appeal of the local Oslo court that ruled against them.

Now they’re claiming that while the local court recognized Norwegian citizens’ and future generations’ constitutional right to a healthy environment, it failed to invalidate the controversial Arctic oil licenses as a breach of that right. Greenpeace cited “strong criticism” of the lower court ruling by legal academics. Greenpeace and Natur og Ungdom contend that the ruling is based on “an improper assessment of the evidence and incorrect interpretation and application of the law.”

Now it’s up to Norway’s Høyesterett (Supreme Court) to decide whether to hear the case. It’s unusual to appeal directly to the high court. “We expect that the Supreme Court will give the climate the protection it needs,” said Gulowsen, who went on to cite the results of a study by London University College: “There’s no room for Arctic oil if we’re to meet the 2-degree limit on global warming, much less the 1.5-degree goal.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund