It’s a Date! We’re Taking Arctic Oil to Court

by Michelle Jonker-Argueta

February 15, 2017

The case could keep millions of barrels of oil in the ground. But it won't be easy.

In 2014, activists from eight countries scaled and occupied Statoil contracted oil rig Transocean Spitsbergen to protest the company's plans to drill the northernmost well in the Norwegian Arctic at the Apollo Prospect of the Barents Sea. Now, Greenpeace is challenging Arctic drilling leases in Norway's supreme court.

In 2014, activists from eight countries scaled and occupied Statoil contracted oil rig Transocean Spitsbergen to protest the company's plans to drill the northernmost well in the Norwegian Arctic at the Apollo Prospect of the Barents Sea. Now, Greenpeace is challenging Arctic drilling leases in Norway's supreme court.

© Greenpeace

It’s time we hold governments accountable for their climate promises; we must protect the pristine Arctic — it’s critical for the preservation of our planet for future generations.

That’s why we’re taking Arctic oil to court.

Statoil-Operated Oil Drilling Platform near Tromsø, Norway. 24 Jan 2017 © Matthew Kemp / Greenpeace

Statoil-Operated Oil Drilling Platform near Tromsø, Norway. 24 Jan 2017 

Our legal case against the Norwegian government, which granted new licenses to companies like like Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Statoil for oil drilling in the Arctic ocean, finally has a court date. November 13!

My name is Michelle. As one of the attorneys behind this groundbreaking case I’ll be updating you as it moves ahead.

When I think of future generations, I think of my niece Blythe. At five months, she has every right to a full and healthy life — free from the catastrophic effects of climate change we are already seeing around the world. THIS — tackling climate change — should be the main priority of governments. It seems however, that they need a little push in guaranteeing these rights. Civil society and youth around the world are doing just that, through the courts. We can be the generation that ends oil.

The People vs Arctic Oil: Historic lawsuit filed against Arctic Oil in Oslo, 18 Oct 2016. © Christian Åslund / Greenpeace

The People vs Arctic Oil: Historic lawsuit filed against Arctic Oil in Oslo, 18 Oct 2016.

Let me take you through some legal stuff.

Norway was among the first countries in the world to sign the Paris Agreement and promise to help limit global warming. But, right after they signed on, they started handing out vast areas of Norwegian seas to oil companies. New oil drilling. In the Arctic! That is madness. The Arctic is vital in regulating the earth’s temperature! We will show the Court that the government must take action, not only to keep the Paris climate agreement on track, but also to uphold the Norwegian Constitution:

Arctic drilling licenses violate Norwegian’s constitutional right to a healthy environment.

This is what is written in Article 112 of the Constitution:

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… The authorities of the state shall take measures for the implementation of these principles”.

It is clear that drilling for more fossil fuels in the Arctic is against the rights enshrined in Article 112. We are demanding that the government upholds these constitutional guarantees.

This is not just about Norway. This is about climate justice for us, our nieces and nephews, all children — every person and future generations.

What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay there. Around the world, communities are already battling the effects of climate change. People have been made homeless by storms, killed by floods and suffered starvation from terrible droughts. Unless we act now, climate change will cause more dangerous and more frequent extreme weather events and sea levels will rise. Lives, livelihoods, homes, and our environment are all at risk.

An unprecedented legal case is filed against the Norwegian government for allowing oil companies to drill for new oil in the Arctic Barents Sea. The plaintiffs, Nature and Youth and Greenpeace Nordic, argue that Norway thereby violates the Paris Agreement and the people's constitutional right to a healthy and safe environment for future generations. The lawsuit has the support of a wide group of scientists, indigenous leaders, activists and public figures. © Christian Åslund / Greenpeace

But this case is now part of a wave of people stepping up for climate all over the world, from Norway to the Philippines. If millions of us come together and take this battle to court, we build a movement to take back our future. So far, more than 150,000 people have joined this global movement. If you haven’t already, add your name and be part of the generation that ends oil.

It is time to end the oil age. If you’re a government, and you’re accelerating climate change, there is a good chance we’ll see you in court. Stay tuned.

By Michelle Jonker-Argueta

Michelle Jonker-Argueta is an attorney with Greenpeace International.

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