Greenpeace Files Appeal Over Norway's Arctic Drilling
On Monday, Greenpeace launched an appeal in its lawsuit against the government of Norway over drilling in the Arctic. If successful, it could be the first suit to find a government at fault for failing to protect citizens from climate change.
In November, the international environmental group joined with a local NGO to sue Norway over drilling licenses in the Barents Sea. The groups arrgued that by facilitating more carbon emissions, the government was failing in its constitutional obligation to protect the environment for the benefit of its citizens. Article 112 of Norway's constitution requires the government to ensure citizens' right to a "natural environment whose productivity and diversity are maintained." Further, Norway is a signatory to the COP21 Paris climate accord and has committed to reducing its overall CO2 footprint; the NGOs argued that the Arctic licensing program is inconsistent with this goal and with the admitted hazards posed by CO2 emissions.
In January, the Oslo District Court acknowledged that a constitutional right to a healthy environment exists in Norway. However, it did not find that the government's decision to offer the exploration leases was a breach of its obligations to its citizens. Greenpeace disagreed, and it hopes to take the case directly before Norway's Supreme Court, bypassing the Court of Appeal.
"It is our view that as long as the consequences of the oil exploration affects Norwegian inhabitants' environmental rights, it is clear from the Constitution that the State is responsible for that effect," said Cathrine Hambro, counsel for Greenpeace and its partners. "It doesn’t matter where the oil is burned."
“There is already enough carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to seriously damage our future. By opening up these pristine areas for oil exploration Norway is effectively smuggling its emissions outside of its own borders and furthering climate change, which harms everyone, everywhere,” said Truls Gulowsen, head of Greenpeace in Norway.
Norway's attorney general declined to comment until after it has received and reviewed a copy of the appeal.