Wed, Nov 15, 2017 - Page 7 News List

Groups take Norway to court over Arctic drilling

PROTECTIONS:NGOs have said that licenses issued for oil exploration are in violation of the constitution, which stipulates the right to a healthy environment


Representatives for Norway, western Europe’s biggest oil producer, were yesterday to face an Oslo court in a lawsuit brought by Greenpeace and another group opposed to drilling in the Arctic.

Greenpeace, along with Natur og Ungdom (Nature and Youth), an environmental group targeting youths, has sued the Norwegian state over licenses awarded last year for oil prospecting in the Barents Sea.

The plaintiffs accuse Norway of violating the Paris Agreement and a section of the constitution amended in 2014 that guarantees the right to a healthy environment.

They claim this is the first time a state has been taken to court for violating the agreements signed at the December 2015 Climate Change Conference in Paris, which came into force in November last year.

“It is clear to us that this new search for oil is in violation of the Paris Agreement and the Norwegian constitution, and we look forward to raising these arguments in court,” Greenpeace Norway head Truls Gulowsen said in a statement.

Norway’s oil revenues are dwindling — crude oil production has been halved since 2001. In May last year, it awarded 10 licenses covering 40 blocs to 13 oil companies, including Norway’s state-owned mammoth Statoil, US groups Chevron and ConocoPhillips, Germany’s DEA, Japan’s Idemitsu, Sweden’s Lundin, OMV of Austria and Russia’s Lukoil.

The two non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are now calling for the concessions to be canceled because of the environmental risks.

The lawyers representing the Norwegian state refused to comment on Monday.

Norway has insisted it is abiding by the constitution and the “validity of the licenses cannot therefore be attacked on this basis,” Norwegian Ministry of Energy spokesman Ole Berthelsen said.

Three of the most contested licenses are located in the immediate vicinity of a maritime border with Russia that has remained unexplored until now, in an area that the two countries long disputed before reaching an agreement in 2010.

One of these zones is the northernmost Norway has ever opened to prospecting, and the non-governmental organizations are concerned about its proximity to the ice floes.

“The Norwegian government, like every government, has an obligation to protect people’s right to a healthy environment,” Natur og Ungdom spokeswoman Ingrid Skjoldvaer said in a statement.

With drilling in the Arctic, “it is us in the younger generation, and our children, who will feel the worst effects of this oil being burned.”

Paradoxically, Norway is also home to the world’s biggest fleet of electric cars per capita. It aims to end sales of new cars equipped with only combustion engines by 2025.

However, Norway’s black gold has also enabled it to build up the world’s biggest sovereign wealth fund, today worth about US$1 trillion.

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