As the People vs. Arctic Oil Trial comes to an end, the battle against climate change continues in courtrooms around the world

After seven days of court hearings, the People vs. Arctic oil trial has come to an end. We expect a judgment during the first weeks of January 2018.

This is our chance to take a look at what happened inside and outside the courtroom and at the growing movement of ordinary people doing extraordinary things to defend and restore our planet.

What happened inside the courtroom

Greenpeace and Nature and Youth argued that Article 112 of the Norwegian Constitution grants people and future generations the right to a healthy environment, which can be enforceable in the courts if the government’s actions violate that right. By opening up new areas for drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic, the Norwegian government is in violation of this article.  This meant we could invoke the highest law in the land for this case – the Constitution.

People vs Arctic Oil Court Case in Oslo - Day 1 © Edward Beskow / Greenpeace

Greenpeace Nordic and Nature and Youth take on the Norwegian government in court for opening up new areas in the Arctic to oil drilling.

While the State attorney called opening up a new area for drilling “an ordinary decision” it is anything but in these extraordinary times. We simply cannot afford to burn more oil if we want to keep the global average temperature rise to below 1.5C, as the world agreed in Paris.

Developed nations like Norway committed to take the lead under the Paris Agreement. Their efforts in combatting climate change should reflect the highest possible ambitions to maintain the temperature targets. But the Norwegian government is breaking their international commitment by opening up new areas for drilling in the Arctic.

What happened outside the courtroom

As the trial continued inside the court, something incredible was happening outside. The bank managing the largest wealth fund in the world, the Norwegian Central bank, recommended the Norwegian Government to divest from oil and gas. They were essentially echoing what our expert witnesses’ were saying: there is great economic risk in the uncertainty of the future of oil and gas.

People vs Arctic Oil Protest in Berlin © Gordon Welters / Greenpeace

Activists use a pixel stick to create a banner that reads “The People vs. Arctic Oil.” Greenpeace activists protest in front of the Norwegian Embassy in Berlin calling for climate and Arctic protection and marking the start of a historic trial in Norway.

As the court listened to our arguments about how drilling for oil in the Arctic is also a human rights  issue, affecting the lives of many outside of Norway, a UN Committee called upon Norway to revise its policy on Arctic oil drilling on the basis that that climate change disproportionately affects women.

The wave is rolling!
The fight for climate justice continues not just in Norway but around the world. Ordinary people are paying attention and rising up:

21 youth plaintiffs sued the US government for failure to act on climate change. On 11 December 2017, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court will hear oral arguments on the latest attempt from the Trump administration to stop the case. If the youth prevail, we expect the trial to start on 5 February 2018.

The Commission on Human Rights in the Philippines have called on 47 carbon producers to attend its investigation into their responsibility for climate-related human rights abuses. On 11 December 2017, the Commission will hold its preliminary conference to consider witnesses and evidence and set the next steps of the inquiry.

An appeals court in Germany declared admissible a Peruvian Farmer’s claim against a German energy giant for contributing to climate change. On 30 November 2017, the Court will decide on next steps.

The Dutch government has filed an appeal against the successful climate case brought by Urgenda. The trial is set to begin on 28 May 2018.

Looking to the future

Over half a million people signed their name to support this court case.

The People vs. Arctic Oil trial may be over but the movement to hold governments and corporations accountable for climate change has begun – and it’s only going to get stronger!

Michelle Jonker-Argueta, Attorney Greenpeace International