Norwegians take their government to court over Arctic drilling

“When the government fails to redress this we have to do what we can to stop it.”

CREDIT: Christian Aslund/Greenpeace
CREDIT: Christian Aslund/Greenpeace

The wave of youth-led climate lawsuits against national governments has moved to Norway, with a group of young plaintiffs filing a lawsuit against the Norwegian government today.

Spearheaded by Nature and Youth, the largest youth-led organization in Norway, and joined by Greenpeace Norway, the group of youth plaintiffs are arguing that the Norwegian government is violating their constitutional right to a healthy environment by allowing companies to drill for oil in the Arctic Barents Sea.

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“Signing [the Paris climate agreement] while throwing open the door to Arctic oil drilling is a dangerous act of hypocrisy,” Truls Gulowsen, head of Greenpeace Norway, said in an emailed statement. “By allowing oil companies to drill in the Arctic, Norway risks undermining global efforts to address climate change. When the government fails to redress this we have to do what we can to stop it.”

In May, the Norwegian government announced their intention to release 10 production licenses to companies looking to drill for oil and gas in the Arctic Barents Sea. Those licenses would allow companies to extract petroleum products from parts of the Arctic that have previously not been exploited for energy production.

The lawsuit claims that allowing these companies to extract oil and gas from these areas is at odds with the country’s commitment to the Paris climate agreement, which states that nations will limit global warming to a maximum of 2° C. Several scientific studies have shown that in order to achieve this goal, a majority of the world’s fossil fuel reserves need to remain untapped.

“This youth legal movement is growing.”

The lawsuit follows similar action taken by Our Children’s Trust, an Oregon-based organization representing youth plaintiffs in climate lawsuits throughout the United States. As in Norway, the plaintiffs in the United States argue that their government — through ineffective climate policy and the subsidization of fossil fuels — is endangering future generations and depriving them of their constitutional right to a clean atmosphere and environment. In September, a judge in Oregon heard arguments to decide whether the federal case would be allowed to go forward; a decision is expected by mid-November.

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“Youth are rising up globally and taking their governments to court to seek protection of their inalienable rights to a stable climate system,” Julia Olson, executive director of Our Children’s Trust and lead counsel on the federal lawsuit, said in a statement. “This case filed today in Norway builds on similar cases brought by young people in Sweden, Pakistan, Uganda, the Philippines, and in states across the U.S. … This youth legal movement is growing.”