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All of us vs. Arctic Oil

When politicians put oil and profit before people and planet, we need to hold them accountable.

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Norway is a country with a deep connection to nature and the environment. From its snow-capped mountains and ancient forests to its stunning network of fjords, this is a country defined by its natural beauty. Norwegian people too, have a deep respect for their environment. 97% of plastic bottles sold here are recycled, and by market share, Norway is by far the biggest adopter of electric cars in the world. 

Greenpeace boards oil platforms in Shell's Brent Spar field.

Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior lies moored in Bergen, Norway © Greenpeace/photographer

However, Norway is also a massive exporter of oil.

While the rest of the world is joining forces to battle the climate crisis and to end the age of fossil fuel dependency, the Norwegian government continues to explore and drill for more oil. This is not only unconscionable in the midst of a climate emergency, but we’re also convinced that it’s a violation of the Norwegian Constitution.

You might remember that in 2017 Greenpeace Nordic and our co-plaintiffs, Nature and Youth, took the Norwegian government to court. This year, we’re appealing the case. We won’t give up the fight to keep Norwegian oil in the ground. And this is why.

1. It conflicts with Norway’s Constitution and the Paris Agreement

People vs Arctic Oil Court Case Ice Sculpture in Oslo. © Edward Beskow / Greenpeace

Ice sculpture engraved with Article 112 of the Norwegian constitution outside the Oslo courthouse. © Edward Beskow / Greenpeace

Article 112 of the Norwegian constitution states:

“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.

Drilling for oil is clearly incompatible with this fundamental right. In the first round of the lawsuit in 2018, the Court agreed that article 112 confers a right to a healthy environment that the government has a responsibility to uphold and that is enforceable in the courts. Absurdly, though, the Court supported the government’s justifications for drilling for more oil. 

Furthermore, continued oil drilling is in direct contravention of the Paris Climate Accord, of which Norway is a party.

2. Out of sight, out of mind – Norwegian oil is burned outside its borders

The government has adopted an out of sight, out of mind philosophy, where they argue that they are not responsible for the emissions from the oil they drill, because the oil is not burned in Norway.

But no matter where oil is burned, it fuels climate change. 

This is the essence of the Norwegian oil problem –  Norway is an oil giant and the 7th biggest exporter of climate-wrecking emissions on the planet, yet it refuses to take responsibility for its role in the global climate emergency and its commitment to the Paris Agreement.

3. We’ve already found more oil than we can afford to burn

Protest Against Norwegian Oil Rig Bound for the Arctic. © Will Rose / Greenpeace

Activists from Greenpeace Nordic and Greenpeace Germany protest a Statoil oil rig in a fjord in northern Norway. © Will Rose / Greenpeace

We are at a critical point in history. What we already see unfolding is a climate crisis. But companies like Norwegian Equinor are still exploring for new oil, literally drilling us deeper and deeper into this crisis. The science says: we have already found more oil than we can afford to burn.

4. Climate change is made in Norway

Forest Fires near Irkutsk Region in Russia. © Igor Podgorny / Greenpeace

Forest Fires near Irkutsk Region in Russia © Igor Podgorny / Greenpeace

Extreme weather events are becoming larger and more difficult to control and predict. In 2019, hurricane Dorian spread death and destruction over the Bahamas, while unprecedented wildfires devastated large parts of Siberia, the Amazon and Indonesia, threatening lives and destroying the very forests that help mitigate the worst effects of the climate breakdown. 

Norway, one of the richest countries in the world, can no longer ignore that its role as a major oil and gas producer is contributing to the death and destruction which is hitting vulnerable communities the hardest.

5. We have to fight for climate justice 

The People vs Arctic Oil: Historic Lawsuit against Arctic Oil in Oslo. © Christian Åslund / Greenpeace

The plaintiffs and supporters of this landmark court case standing outside the Norwegian courthouse in Oslo. © Christian Åslund / Greenpeace

With this historic lawsuit, a new generation is stepping up to hold the politicians accountable and stop oil companies from destroying our future. A win in court would mean that these drilling plans get cancelled, potentially preventing the pollution from millions of barrels of oil, and this could also set a precedent to stop other illegal fossil fuel projects.

This case is part of a wave of people stepping up for the climate, and right now there are more than 600 active climate lawsuits – charging governments and corporations – in 28 countries.  

What would you say to the governments and oil companies who are justifying their climate-wrecking actions with absurd excuses? Support the case by adding your name as evidence in court and writing a statement. Speak your heart. We’ll use your writing to make our case even stronger.

 Erlend Tellnes is an Arctic Campaigner with Greenpeace Norway