A landmark court case kicks off today, as a historic people-powered lawsuit against the Norwegian government for granting new licenses to drill for oil in the Arctic Barents Sea reaches the courts. The plaintiffs, Natur og Ungdom/Young Friends of the Earth Norway and Greenpeace Nordic, argue that the decision contravenes the Paris climate agreement and violates the right to a safe and healthy environment for current and future generations granted by the Norwegian Constitution.
Ingrid Skjoldvær, Head of Natur og Ungdom/Young Friends of the Earth Norway, said: "The Norwegian government, like every government, has an obligation to protect people's right to a healthy environment. It is us in the younger generation, and our children, who will feel the worst effects of this oil being burned. This court case is giving us a critical opportunity to protect our futures and, we hope, providing a valuable tool for others to do the same."
The new licenses, granted in in the summer of 2016, were awarded to Statoil, Chevron, Lukoil and ten other oil companies, and are located in highly sensitive areas of the Arctic; new areas with no existing petroleum infrastructure.
The plaintiffs argue that granting the licences cannot be reconciled with what Norway committed to when it ratified the Paris Agreement's goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 Cº.
This is the first court case that challenges new oil and gas drilling based on the Paris Agreement. It is also the first time that article 112 of the Norwegian Constitution will be tested in court, which could set an international precedent.
Around the world some 90 countries have a Constitutionally protected right to a healthy environment, and this lawsuit can have a ripple effect helping guide other jurisdictions on how to interpret these rights in their legal systems, and inspiring more people to hold their governments to account.
It is our duty as citizens and as environmental organisations to act when politicians are failing their commitments and responsibilities.
At the same time as the climate trial starts in Norway, Fiji is hosting the COP23 United Nations climate change conference in Bonn, and two young Pacific Islanders representatives from Fiji are attending the first day of the trial in Oslo.
Alisi Nacewa, an activist representing the Pacific Islands said: "We are here in Norway because our home is on the frontline of climate change. Our way of life is being impacted by extreme weather and rising sea levels right now. There is no way the continuation of oil and gas extraction, can deliver a world below 1.5 degrees. No way. No matter how politicians try to spin it. The Norwegian government has signed the Paris Agreement but they continue to drill for oil and supply the world with more fossil fuels. The two are in complete contradiction. It's time to hold countries accountable for breaking their Paris commitments."
From 14 to 23 November, Natur og Ungdom/Young Friends of the Earth Norway will meet the Norwegian government in the Oslo District Court. The Norwegian Grandparents Climate Campaign has added their support to the co-plaintiffs. Lawyers will present evidence and argue that the negative impacts on the Arctic and the global climate brought by the licenses is a violation of the Constitutional right toa safe and healthy environment.
It is crucial for the plaintiffs to make this lawsuit as open as possible and accessible all over the world because it concerns a matter of global importance. Greenpeace will be hosting daily live streamings on Facebook and Instagram.