Greenpeace protesting the rig "Songa Enabler" in the Barents Sea a few years ago. Photo: Greenpeace

Supreme Court rules in favor of Norway's Arctic oil drilling

Drilling for more oil can continue in the Barents Sea as Norway's top court rejected the lawsuit filed by four environmental organizations.
December 22, 2020


The ruling and voting by all 19 judges in the Supreme Court was streamed live and the main question for judgment was if Arctic oil drilling, as opened for by the government, violates the Constitution’s § 112. The Article is aimed to ensure the State has an obligation to take measures guaranteeing the citizen’s rights to a secure climate, including for the coming generations.

The judgment was uneven, with four of the 19 judges believing the oil licenses in the Barents Sea should be invalid for climate reasons.

It was in 2016 the organizations sued the Norwegian state for the opening of new oil drilling in the Barents Sea through the 23rd licensing round.

With the ruling, Norway can continue to explore for offshore petroleum up north. 

The four organizations; Nature and Youth, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and Grandparents Climate Campaign are disappointed.

“We are outraged with this judgment, which leaves youth and future generations without Constitutional protection. The Supreme Court chooses loyalty to Norwegian oil over our rights to a livable future. The youth in Norway fighting against Arctic oil drilling is used to being disappointed, and we will continue our fight. In the streets, in voting booths and in the courts if needed,” said Therese Hugstmyr Woie, head of Nature and Youth.

Frode Pleym, head of Greenpeace Norway calls the judgment absurd. “It is absurd that our right to a livable environment cannot be used to stop Norway’s most harmful activities for our climate and environment. We share in the outrage the youth of Norway will feel faced with this decision.”


The organizations are now considering appealing the case to the European Court of Human Rights. 

Norway recently lost its spot on the UN Human Development ranking due to its large carbon footprints from the oil industry that is seen as putting people’s quality of life at risk.

In November, the government announced another 136 oil blocks in northern waters, of which about half are in the northern part of the Barents Sea at 73°N and 74°N and will, if approved, be some of the northernmost offshore oil drillings in the world. 

The Goilat field is Norway’s first oil production in the Barents Sea and today the world’s northernmost offshore oil production. Photo: Thomas Nilsen


This autumn has been the hottest ever in Europe, with shocking temperatures in early November with an average of 6,7°C above normal across the Arctic.

December started with several places in the Russian Arctic reporting about temperature deviation from normal of more than 20 degree Celsius.

Norway is, together with Russia, the largest oil producers in the north.


Climate Crisis

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