Oslo, Norway, 12 November 2020 – Thursday was the last day of the climate case in the Supreme Court of Norway, where environmental and youth organisations have sued the Norwegian State for opening up new oil drilling in the Arctic. The plaintiffs from Young Friends of the Earth Norway and Greenpeace Nordic are backed by the youth movement, climate scientists and human rights organisations all over the world, and are now waiting for a judgment that could potentially change the course of new oil drilling in Norway and beyond.
“The fate of the climate, and millions of people across the world affected by extreme weather events, hangs in the balance of every barrel of oil we either extract, or leave in the ground. The Norwegian state has an obligation to both the Paris Agreement and the Norwegian Constitution to minimise the health and safety risks from the climate crisis on future generations. The Supreme Court now has the unique opportunity to decide over the future of new oil drilling in the middle of a climate crisis,” said Frode Pleym, head of Greenpeace Norway.
On the last day in the Supreme Court, the environmental organisations’ lawyer, Cathrine Hambro, ended her plea by appealing to the judges:
“Future generations– our grandchildren — will feel the climate crisis in a completely different way than the members of the court. And these grandchildren will want to know if they had a grandfather or grandmother in the Norwegian Supreme Court. I would urge you to pass a judgment that your grandchildren will be proud of.”
The People Vs Arctic oil court case is part of many “firsts” for Norway: It is the first opening of new areas of fossil fuel production since 1994 in Norway, and the first oil licences handed out since the Paris Agreement came into force. The first since the Carbon Budget proved the fossil resources already discovered exceed what can be used. It is also the first since the environmental article §112 of the Norwegian Constitution was adopted, culminating in Norway’s Supreme Court being asked to rule on safeguarding the environment for present and future generations.
“The purpose of the Norwegian Constitution §112 is to safeguard people’s rights to a healthy environment, now and into the future. But danger can only be avoided before emission happens, when they happen it is too late. The Supreme Court judgment can make a huge difference in the course we are setting out for our future”, said Therese Hugstmyr Woie, head of Young Friends of the Earth Norway.
“Most of the Norwegian oil is burned in other countries. Ignoring the responsibility for exported emissions means ignoring 95 percent of the consequences on our climate from Norwegian oil drilling. The Norwegian government cannot turn it’s back on the fact that the climate crisis is happening in front of us, and that people are already suffering all over the world. To disregard this is to disregard Norway’s international responsibilities and science.” said Frode Pleym, head of Greenpeace Norway.
Through the climate lawsuit it was revealed that the government had withheld a secret report from the Parliament showing that oil drilling could generate huge economic losses for Norway. The government already knew in 2012 that exploration might be unprofitable, but neither the taxpayers nor the Parliament were let in on the secret, therefore the Parliament approved the opening of new oil fields without key information. This has now become a big political issue and the Parliament will soon decide if they should investigate the process around the secret report.
No judgment date has been set. Based on the timing of the decisions of the lower courts, we could expect a judgment in December 2020 or January 2021.
Documents and photos
Media briefing here
Legal documents here
Press photos here
Notes for editors
-In January 2020, the court ruled that the Constitution does grant a right to a healthy environment and that the scope of Norway’s responsibilities includes the environmental harm caused by emissions from Norwegian oil burned abroad.
-This is the first case to challenge the drilling for oil and gas based on the Paris Agreement, and it is the first time the right contained in the Norwegian Constitutional Article §112 is invoked in the Supreme court.
-The plaintiffs have filed the legal case against the Norwegian government for granting oil licenses to 13 companies in the 23rd licensing round in the Barents Sea.
Frode Pleym, head of Greenpeace Norway: +47 97307378
Therese Hugstmyr Woie, head of Young Friends of the Earth Norway: +47 90727377
Daniel Bengtsson, head of communication Greenpeace Nordic: + 46 70 300 95 10
Aud Hegli Nordø, communications manager Greenpeace Norway: +47 41470649