Norwegian thirst for Arctic oil is in conflict the country's constitution, as well as international agreements, two law professors say. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

«Arctic drilling is against the law»

Norway can not proceed with its plans for Arctic oil and gas development, a new report concludes.
May 10, 2016

Norwegian law professors Beate Sjåfjell and Anita Halvorssen have assessed national and international law and its implications for oil and gas activities in the Arctic. Their conclusion is clear: Norway does not have the right to proceed with its ambitious petroleum plans in Arctic waters.

The publication titled «Is oil and gas extraction in the Arctic legal?» uses Norway as case study, and looks at a wide range of national and international legal documents.  

The report is published by the Norwegian Climate Foundation, an information and research center. 

According to the professors, Arctic drilling is in conflict with the Norwegian Constitution, which in an amendment from 2014 states that «everyone has the right to live in an environment which provides good conditions for health and in nature which preserves productivity and diversity».

Sjåfjell and Halvorssen also argue that oil exploration in the area could be a violation of international agreements such as the UN Climate Convention (UNFCCC), the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Convention on Biological Diversity, as well as the EU Sustainable Development Strategy.

The report comes as Norway is doing last preparations for its 23rd License Round, a process which includes as many as 57 license blocks in the High North.

All the new blocks are located in northern waters, 54 of them in the Barents Sea and the remaining three in the Norwegian Sea. Several of the license areas are located further east and further north than ever before on the Norwegian shelf. The license map shows that eight blocks are located immediately along the borderline with Russia. Another eight blocks are located to the north of the 74th parallel.

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The winners of the licenses will be announced in June, the Norwegian Ministry of Oil and Energy says. A total of 26 companies are bidding for the licenses.  

According to Professors Beate Sjåfjell and Anita Halvorssen there could be good chances for a win in the Norwegian Supreme Court if the case would be tried.

Environmental organization Nature and Youth has already announced that it will sue the Norwegian state if it proceeds with the 23rd License Round.

«The license round must be cancelled», organization leader Ingrid Skjoldvær says. «Oil drilling in the Arctic is incompatible with a responsible climate policy. If Norway is to take its fair share of responsibility to hinder dangerous climate change, then we must let the oil stay in the ground».

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