Lawyers and plaintiffs in the case against the Norwegian government listen to the judgment online from the lawyers’ offices in central Oslo. Therese Hugstmyr Woie, leader of Young Friends of the Earth Norway, and Cathrine Hambro, lawyer.

Oslo, Norway, 22 Dec 2020 – Today the Supreme Court of Norway ruled in the People Vs Arctic Oil court case where environmental and youth organisations have sued the Norwegian State for opening up for new oil drilling in the Arctic.

The judgment was uneven, with four judges believing that the oil licenses in the Arctic should be invalid for climate reasons, but the majority voted in favour of the Norwegian state.

Full judgment (in Norwegian) here. 

– We are outraged with this judgment, which leaves youth and future generations without Constitutional protection. The Supreme Court chooses loyalty to Norwegian oil over our rights to a livable future. The youth in Norway fighting against Arctic oil drilling is used to being disappointed, and we will continue our fight. In the streets, in voting booths and in the courts if needed, said Therese Hugstmyr Woie, head of Young Friends of the Earth Norway.

4 of the 15 judges believed that the oil licenses were invalid due to procedural errors that had affected the decision to open up for oil drilling, and that it was a mistake that possible future global emissions of greenhouse gases were not considered in the underlying impact assessment.

– It is absurd that our right to a livable environment cannot be used to stop Norway’s most harmful activities for our climate and environment. We share in the outrage the youth of Norway will feel faced with this decision. It is a disappointment but we are not deterred. We will now consider all possibilities to stop this harmful industry, including an application to the European Court of Human Rights, said Frode Pleymhead of Greenpeace Norway.

The Norwegian government has faced severe criticism from the UN and been met with massive protests for its exploration for more oil. The country recently lost its spot on the UN Human Development ranking due to its large carbon footprints from the oil industry that is seen as putting people’s quality of life at risk.

A recent opinion poll in Norway also shows that a majority of the Norwegian population agree that oil exploration in the Arctic should be stopped for climate and environmental reasons, and a majority supported a judgment in favour of limiting oil and gas exploration for climate reasons.

– The Court has let the government off the hook at this time, but leaves the door open for an assessment on climate impacts, including emissions after export, at the later production stage. This should be a warning to the oil industry. At this moment in history, no oil producing country holds a credible position on climate without ending exploration for new oil and setting a plan for retiring the industry,said Frode Pleymhead of Greenpeace Norway.

While Norway has been continuing to expand oil exploration into the Arctic its neighbor Denmark, the biggest oil producer in the EU, has brought an immediate end to new oil and gas exploration in the North Sea as part of a plan to phase out fossil fuel extraction by 2050.
US president-elect Joe Biden is calling for a moratorium against offshore oil exploration in the Arctic in his climate plan for the US and seeks cooperation from Norway and the rest of the Arctic Council.

In 2016, Young Friends of the Earth Norway and Greenpeace Nordic launched a lawsuit against the Norwegian State regarding the allocation of new oil drilling in the Barents Sea. Norwegian Grandparents’ Climate Action and Friends of the Earth Norway have since joined the case as third party supporters. The organisations believe that oil drilling in the Arctic violates §112 of the Norwegian Constitution, which states that citizens have the right to a safe and healthy environment and that the state must implement measures to secure this right. The case has been tried in the Oslo District Court in 2017 and the Court of Appeal in 2019, before reaching the Supreme Court in November 2020.

Documents and photos

  • Media briefing here
  • Press photos here