Norway’s climate activists pivot to human rights to challenge Arctic drilling

Through Lars Erik Taraldsen at 06/15/2021

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OSLO (Bloomberg) – Climate activists who failed in their bid to stop oil and gas drilling in the Norwegian Arctic are taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Two major environmental organizations, as well as six young climate activists, will file a claim with the court, arguing that allowing new oil drilling during a climate crisis violates basic human rights.

The activists have repeatedly lost their cases in Norway, ending with the Supreme Court’s rejection of their attempt to stop Arctic oil exploration in December. Decision to lead the fight in Europe follows a legal victory by climate groups against Royal Dutch Shell Plc in the Netherlands, and an International Energy Agency report concluding that the world cannot achieve net zero emissions only if the development of new oil fields stops. at once.

The oil industry and the bible of pro-oil parties have been the IEA reports, ”said Frode Pleym, head of Greenpeace Norway. “The IEA has now been clear on what we need to do to meet the Paris targets: to stop exploring for more oil.”

Related story: IEA says ending new oil and gas exploration today is the only climate viable route

Norway, the largest oil and gas producer in Western Europe, has fought a long legal battle against Nature and Youth and Greenpeace – two of the country’s largest environmental organizations – over licenses to drill in the Barents Sea .

Only one oil field is currently in production in Norwegian Arctic waters, but several more are under development. Companies such as Equinor ASA, Aker BP ASA, Var Energi AS and Lundin Energy AB are currently active there. The Norwegian Oil Directorate estimates that most of the country’s undiscovered resources are in the Barents.

There is growing political pressure in Norway to restrict oil and gas drilling, but the government remains committed to the industry. An article on the future of energy published last week said oil policy would not be changed at all, despite a greater focus on renewables.

The government maintains that Norway can meet its obligations under the Paris climate agreement while continuing to pump oil and gas. Climate activists hope the court in Strasbourg, France will find this violates their human rights.

Related article: Norwegian Energy Minister considers both renewables and fossil fuels in country’s future

The indigenous Sami people of northern Norway are already losing their way of life due to rising temperatures, said Ella Marie Haetta Isaksen, one of the activists involved in the case.

“My parents fish for salmon every year, but due to climate change we can’t do it anymore,” Isaksen said. “It affects a lot of their nutrition.”

In the original lawsuit, the plaintiffs argued that new oil drilling in vulnerable areas of the Barents Sea violated article 112 of the Norwegian constitution, which states that “everyone has the right to a healthy environment” . In Strasbourg, activists will say that Barents’ new drilling violates Articles 2 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

It is not given that the Strasbourg court will accept the activists’ request. If they do, it could take a long time for the deal to close.

“It could take between one and five years,” Pleym said. “But for us, it would be a victory in itself if they accepted the deal.”

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