Environmental organizations Greenpeace Nordic and Natur og Ungdom (Young Friends of the Earth Norway) are taking the Norwegian government to court once again contesting the approval of new offshore oil fields, with trial starting November 28 at the Oslo District Court. While the groups were unsuccessful in their previous legal challenge, the new round of litigation might reach a different outcome for two reasons.
One, the climate science has gotten even more robust since the Norwegian courts ruled against the environmental plaintiffs in 2018 and 2020, with major reports like those from the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment and the International Energy Agency warning that CO2 emissions from existing fossil fuel infrastructure are expected to exceed the remaining carbon budget for limiting warming to 1.5 degrees C and that no new oil and gas fields are needed in a net-zero emissions pathway. Two, Norway’s Supreme Court determined in its 2020 decision that the government is required to assess the climate impacts of new oil fields before approving them. Plaintiffs say this hasn’t happened or has been wholly insufficient.
“The Norwegian government defies climate science and the Supreme Court when they constantly approve new oil and gas projects without taking into account how this affects the climate,” Greenpeace states.
The new lawsuit – filed this year on June 29 – challenges the Norwegian government’s approval of three oil and gas fields in the North Sea. The approval and any subsequent extraction, without adequate consideration of the climate change context, violates the Norwegian constitution as well as Norway’s obligations under international human rights law including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the lawsuit contends. This treaty and section 104 of the constitution require the best interests of children be taken into account in matters concerning them, and plaintiffs argue that the oil fields approval goes against this obligation.
“The Norwegian government is constitutionally required to protect the fundamental rights of current and future generations. But for every new oil field the Norwegian government approves, it leaves bigger and bigger emission cuts and increasingly deadly, dangerous climate impacts for current and future generations to deal with,” said Gina Gylver, head of Natur og Ungdom. “This is a grossly unfair burden on young people.”
Greenpeace Nordic and Natur og Ungdom are calling for a temporary injunction or halt to operations pertaining to the three oil fields until the legal challenge is resolved.
According to the Planet Wreckers report published by Oil Change International in September, Norway is among five Global North countries responsible for 51 percent of planned expansion from new oil and gas fields through 2050. As the report explains, “the science is clear that new oil and gas fields are incompatible with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, yet countries are continuing to approve new oil and gas extraction that endangers the global climate objectives they signed.”
Frode Pleym, head of Greenpeace Nordic, said in a statement that Norway “is a climate hypocrite, not a climate leader.”
“We are confident that we can win this fight against Norway’s aggressive gas and oil policy, which continues to wreak havoc on the climate and people all over the world,” he added.
Trial proceedings continue this week in Oslo and are scheduled to wrap up next week on December 6.