The People vs Arctic Oil: Historic climate trial ends

22 November 2017

Today was the last day in court where three environmental organisations – including Natur og Ungdom/Young FoE Norway – have taken on the Norwegian government for opening up new areas in the Arctic to oil drilling. The plaintiffs have been arguing that drilling for new oil violates the Norwegian Constitution and contravenes the Paris Agreement. Winning the case could set a precedent for future climate cases around the world. The verdict is expected in 4 to 12 weeks.

More than half a million people have submitted their names as evidence of the global opposition against Arctic oil drilling. They are asking the Norwegian government to withdraw the new oil licenses in the Arctic. In a crowdsourcing drive to contribute to legal costs, so far 2500 Norwegians have donated funds covering close to half of the legal costs for the plaintiffs.

Ingrid Skjoldvær, Head of Natur og Ungdom/Young FoE Norway, said: "If we lose, the Norwegian state will continue to drill for oil in the Arctic. This will lead to more climate change and an uncertain future for young people today, and those who come after us. Our hope is that the court will both cancel the oil licenses awarded in the 23rd licensing round and ensure that the Norwegian government start to assess the climate change consequences of distributing new oil licenses."

During the trial, three environmental organisations: Greenpeace, Nature and Youth and Grandparents Climate Campaign, have argued that the Norwegian government has violated the right to a healthy and safe environment for future generations, as outlined in the Norwegian Constitution §112. This is the first time this right has been used in the court of law. Around the world, over 90 countries have a constitutionally protected right to a healthy environment, and the world is now waiting to see if the verdict can inspire more people to make their governments responsible to their citizens.

During the first week of the climate trial in Oslo, the world's largest sovereign wealth fund, the Norwegian Oil Fund and the Norwegian Central bank (Norges Bank) asked the Government for permission to divest more than 35 billion USD from oil and gas to "make the government's wealth less vulnerable".

The 13 oil companies that have new license blocks in the Barents Sea, and would be affected by the verdict, are: Statoil (Norway), Capricorn, Tullow and Centrica (UK), Chevron and ConocoPhillips (USA), DEA (Germany), Aker BP (Norway), Idemitsu (Japan), Lukoil (Russia), Lundin Petroleum (Sweden), OMV (Austria), PGNiG (Norway/Poland).