Barents Sea, Norway – 11 peaceful activists from the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise have taken to the water in inflatable boats to oppose the Statoil Songa Enabler oil rig, 275 km North off the Norwegian coast, in the Arctic Barents sea.
They hold banners that say: “People Vs. Arctic Oil” directed at Statoil and the Norwegian government, which has opened a new, aggressive search for oil in the waters of the Barents Sea.
Actor and activist Lucy Lawless from New Zealand and Climate change survivor and activist Joanna Sustento from the Philippines, are among the 19 nationalities who have travelled to the high Northern waters onboard the Arctic Sunrise. Sustento wants the Norwegian government to take responsibility for its climate commitments and development of a new oil frontier in the Arctic. She lost her entire family, except for her brother, to Super-typhoon Haiyan in 2013 which left large parts of her hometown, Tacloban, in ruins.
“It is hard for me to grasp and accept that a government like Norway’s is opening up new Arctic oil drilling, knowing full well it will put families and homes in other parts of the world at risk. I’m here in the Arctic to see this irresponsibility with my own eyes; share my story about the human consequences of climate change; and call on the Norwegian government to put a stop to this dangerous search for new oil,” said Sustento.
Just two weeks after signing the Paris Climate Agreement, the Norwegian Government awarded 13 oil companies 10 new licenses in a completely new area, for the first time in more than 20 years.
“It is scary to think that super-typhoons could become the new normal if governments like Norway’s allow more oil drilling. I couldn’t stop the typhoon that destroyed my home, but Norway could play a role in curbing the severity and frequency of these storms right now. It gives me hope to see that right now people are taking peaceful action for the climate all over the world and holding governments accountable,” added Sustento.
Greenpeace and the Norwegian organisation Nature and Youth, have also filed a lawsuit against the Norwegian government, arguing that the new oil licenses violate both the Paris Climate Agreement and paragraph 112 of the Norwegian Constitution, which commits the government “to safeguard the people’s right to a clean and healthy environment for future generations.”
More than 250,000 people have added their names to support the climate lawsuit, and these witness statements will be used to support the case in court.
“I can’t stand by, doing nothing, when we know beyond a doubt that we can’t burn a single barrel of oil from a new well if we are to avoid a climate catastrophe. I don’t ever want to look my kids in the eye and explain why I didn’t do all I could to protect them from climate change. It is beyond my understanding that the Norwegian government is giving Statoil a ticket to drill like mad at the expense of future generations,” said Lucy Lawless.
“For me it’s more than a case of ‘not in our own backyard’. Climate change is the greatest threat humanity has ever faced. The companies driving it must be pursued and stopped – we will confront them in every corner of the world,” she says.
“New Zealand is my homeland. I cannot stand by as big oil companies come in to drill against all our best interests. The age of oil must end.”
Up until last month, the state-owned Norwegian Statoil was in New Zealand waters where it was prospecting for oil off the Wairarapa Coast using the world’s largest seismic surveying ship, the Amazon Warrior.
During this time Lawless helped Greenpeace crowdfund for a boat, named Taitu, which the environmental organisation used to confront the Amazon Warrior at sea, stopping it from seismic blasting for a period of time.
Three swimmers, including Greenpeace New Zealand Executive Director Dr Russel Norman, travelled more than 50 nautical miles off the Wairarapa Coast in the crowdfunded boat, Taitu, in search of the Amazon Warrior, which has been blasting for oil on behalf of Statoil.
Norman and two others then put themselves in the water in front of the 125-metre long ship, forcing it to change course and cease blasting for a day.
Both Greenpeace and the three swimmers have been charged under the ‘Anadarko Amendment’ of the Crown Minerals Act. It’s the first time anyone has been charged under the controversial law, which was passed in 2013 without public consultation, and is designed stop protest against oil ships at sea.
The activists face jail time and, along with Greenpeace, face large fines.
The Statoil rig Songa Enabler is currently looking for new oil at the Gemini North license, and is expected to continue to the Korpfjell license later this summer. Both licenses were awarded in the 23rd licensing round that is subject of the court case filed by Greenpeace and Nature and Youth, scheduled for hearing on November 14th, 2017. Statoil and the Norwegian government have decided to go ahead with the drillings despite the legal dispute.
Photos from the protest here: http://act.gp/2uhXYjm
More information about the case against the Norwegian government: http://act.gp/2vrIny4