Green activists push to stop Arctic driling

Environmemtalist groups take Norway to court over oil drilling

oil drilling

Photo: Håkon M. Larsen / NTB Scanpix
A scene from the Svalbard archipelago. In the words of Frode Pleym, head of Greenpeace Norway, “Opening up the pristine areas in the Arctic for oil drillig in a time of climate emergency is not acceptable.”

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Two environmental groups are trying to take the Norwegian state to the Supreme Court of Norway for granting oil licenses in the Arctic. Greenpeace and Natur og Ungdom (Nature and Youth) say oil drilling licenses granted to companies in 2016 should be canceled, because they violate Norway’s constitution and the right to a healthy environment.

They say emissions from oil activities and fossil fuels jeopardize the objectives of the Paris Agreement, which aims to limit warming from climate change to less than 2 degrees Celsius, compared with preindustrial temperatures.

The organizations have suffered two legal setbacks in district court and an appeals court in Oslo. Both ruled that their concerns were hypothetical, as there was no certainty fossil fuels would be discovered.

The appeals court judges upheld that  CO2 emissions from Norwegian oil should be interpreted as not only emissions from the production but also emissions from the use of oil and petrol even outside the country.

“Opening up the pristine areas in the Arctic for oil drilling in a time of climate emergency is not acceptable,” Greenpeace Norway head Frode Pleym said in a statement.

As the largest producer of oil in Western Europe, Norway is struggling to break its dependence on hydrocarbons, which enabled the country to amass a sovereign wealth fund of more than $1 trillion.

“The world has already found more oil, coal and gas than we can burn, if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change,” Therese Hugstmyr Woie, head of Natur og Ungdom, said in a statement. “Of course Norway has a responsibility not to produce more oil than the climate can support.”

The case concerns 10 licences issued for exploration drilling in the Barents Sea.

The beneficiaries include Norway’s Equinor, the American companies Chevron and ConocoPhillips, and Russian Lukoil.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide whether or not to hear the case in the coming months.

This article originally appeared in the March 6, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American.

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The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.