Strasbourg/Oslo – The Norwegian state argues that the European Court of Human Rights should reject the case filed by environmental organisations and six young activists, using the war in Ukraine to justify a demand for Norwegian oil in decades to come. The applicants react strongly, saying that the attempt to evade responsibility for the climate crisis is reckless.
“The government tries to rid itself of the responsibility an expansion of the oil industry entails in a world experiencing a climate crisis. However, it can’t escape the fact that continued oil production leads to increased emissions and is incompatible with the Paris Agreement’s targets. It will without a doubt have huge consequences for my future. This case is our opportunity to ensure hundreds of millions of tons of CO2 stay in the ground”, says Gina Gylver, one of the youths behind the complaint and head of Young Friends of the Earth Norway.
In its reply, the Norwegian State argues that the complaint should be declared inadmissible, and claims that Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine justifies the search for more oil and gas today, thus increasing greenhouse gas emissions for another 30 years or more.
“War in 2022 does not legitimise oil policy from 2016, nor does it justify new production several decades into the future. Europe’s response to the war is to accelerate the transition to renewable energy, a transition that is already well underway and will be far advanced when Norway’s undiscovered resources enter the market. The fact that the government uses the war in this way only highlights that it doesn’t take its climate responsibility seriously and that the case belongs in Strasbourg”, said Frode Pleym, head of Greenpeace Norway.
Greenpeace Nordic and Young Friends of the Earth Norway, as well as six young environmental activists, applied to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in June last year, arguing Norway is violating their right to life by allowing new oil drilling in the Barents Sea. The applicants have exhausted national remedies after the Norwegian Supreme Court rejected their appeal in December 2020.
“Since the decision in the Supreme Court, the effects of the climate crisis have become more and more evident. Record temperatures, fires and extreme weather events such as floods are becoming more common and more damaging. The ice is melting, the sea is becoming more acidic, and in Norway alone, 2752 species are threatened”, said Pleym.
The environmental organisations argue that new oil drilling in vulnerable areas in the Barents Sea is a violation of Articles 2 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, granting every European citizen the right to be protected against decisions endangering life and private life.
“Norway insists it will continue the expansion of fossil fuels just after UN’s Secretary-General António Guterres stated that ‘investing in new fossil fuels infrastructure is moral and economic madness’. New oil licences are incompatible with achieving the climate goals outlined in the Paris Agreement. Just like the UN, we find it irresponsible that Norway continues its current dirty oil policy”, said Gylver.
In January this year, the case was communicated to the Norwegian government by the ECtHR. On average, only one out of every ten applications submitted gets communicated by the Court.
The following have been granted permission to intervene and submit their written comments:
- The United Nations Special Rapporteurs on Human Rights and the Environment, and on Toxics and Human rights
- The Norwegian Grandparents’ Climate Campaign
- The European Network of National Human Rights Institutions
- The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ International) and ICJ Norway
What will happen next?
The applicants will be given a deadline from the ECtHR to file their observations on law and facts from the government response.
The Court could either decide to refer the case to the Grand Chamber, ask the government to submit additional observations, ask the parties to provide additional information or reach a decision on admissibility and the merits.
It is unclear when the ECtHR will conclude the case. The normal processing time is three years, but the decision may come much sooner, as the case is defined as a possible “impact case”, which indicates that a judgement may have a major impact on the Norwegian legal system, the European legal system or how effectively the European Convention on Human Rights works.
Two other climate cases, from environmentalists in Portugal and Switzerland, are also being tried in the European Court of Human Rights, but the Norwegian case is the first and only one pertaining directly to oil drilling in light of the climate crisis.
- More about the case from Greenpeace Norway
- State’s response to the ECtHR from the Office of the Attorney General
- Information about the applicants
- Media Brief: People vs. Arctic Oil
- Photos from the Greenpeace Media Library
Aud Hegli Nordø
Communications Manager, Greenpeace Norway
[email protected] / +47 41470649