Barents Sea oil platform for the Goliat-field. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Supreme Court to hear Arctic drilling lawsuit

After losing two lower courts, four Norwegian environmental organizations have got acceptance to bring their demand for banning oil drilling in the Barents Sea in for the country’s highest court.
April 23, 2020


All 19 judges in the Supreme Court will meet when the case comes up, a move underlining the principal importance of the case, referred to as ‘The People vs. Arctic Oil.”

“We look forward to a thorough examination as to whether the government breached the Constitution when they chose to grant new oil licenses in the Arctic even though they knew the world was in the midst of a climate crisis. We believe the Norwegian state must be held accountable and that the oil licenses must be judged invalid. A victory will be historic and have major consequences for the climate”, said Frode Pleym, head of Greenpeace Norway.

The three other groups participating in the lawsuit are Nature and Youth, Friends of the Earth Norway and Grandparents Climate Campaign.

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.

No other countries in the circumpolar Arctic have allowed for oil drilling further north than Norway.


A court room built in ice staged an artist impression of the climate lawsuit during the Barents Spektakel festival in Kirkenes a few years ago. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Climate crisis 

The environmentalists point to the Constitution which protects the rights to a healthy environment. Arctic oil drilling, the groups argue, will contribute to more harmful climate gasses to the atmosphere and consequently worsening the ongoing climate crisis.


“Norway’s exported greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas are already ten times as high as its domestic emissions. The world’s rapidly declining carbon budget does not have room for more oil extraction”, said Therese Hugstmyr Woie, head of Nature and Youth.

Amended two years ago, the Constitution’s Article 112 is aimed to ensure the State has an obligation to take measures guaranteeing the citizens’ rights to a secure climate, including for the descendants. 

Article 112 reads: “Every person has the right to an environment that is conducive to health and to a natural environment whose productivity and diversity are maintained. Natural resources shall be managed on the basis of comprehensive long-term considerations which will safeguard this right for future generations as well. In order to safeguard their right in accordance with the foregoing paragraph, citizens are entitled to information on the state of the natural environment and on the effects of any encroachment on nature that is planned or carried out. The authorities of the state shall take measures for the implementation of these principles.

In January 2018, the Oslo district court ruled in favor of the state, and in January this year, the environmentalists lost in the court of Appeal. 

Supported by Greta Thunberg 

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has supported the work on the Norwegian lawsuit with a donation of 250,000 kroner through the Greta Thunberg Foundation.

Thunberg was awarded the Fritt Ord Award, given annually in Norway to people or organizations who have advanced freedom of expression, together with Young Friends of the Earth Norway last year and announced that she would donate her share of the award money to the case. 

“Science is clear that fossil fuels have to stay in the ground. As a major oil producer and exporter, Norway needs to make the transition away from polluting fossil fuels, and show the way for other fossil-dependent economies. I am happy that this grant will go into the fight against new oil drilling and for a safe and healthy environment for future generations”, said Greta Thunberg according to a press release sent by Greenpeace Norway. 




Climate Crisis

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