A group of activists is trying to put a stop to Norway’s Arctic oil exploration and forcing the country to defend itself in the first court case of its kind.
The lawsuit is the first test of an article added in 2014 to Norway’s Constitution to ensure people have a right to a healthy, productive and diverse environment, and that natural resources are managed in a way that protects that right for future generations. The case is also the first to challenge oil and gas activity based on the Paris Agreement, according to Greenpeace.
The environmental groups on Monday unveiled an ice sculpture with Article 112 inscribed in it just a few yards from the entrance of the Oslo District Court, where it will remain during the trial. “If we win, it will obviously have big consequences — so big, some have said, that the case can’t be won,” Truls Gulowsen, the head of Greenpeace in Norway, said to reporters outside the court house on Monday. “We expect to win.” Both Banet and Oystein Jensen, a senior research fellow at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute, said that would be difficult. “It’s important regardless,” Jensen said. “The climate problem can’t be solved in the courts anyway. It requires a political solution.” While drilling opponents ended up with limited gains in this year’s Norwegian election, the campaign showed voters are increasingly questioning whether it makes sense to look for more oil, especially in sensitive Arctic areas. An August poll showed 44 percent of Norwegian people, among the planet’s richest thanks to oil, would be willing to leave resources in the ground if it helps cut emissions. Meanwhile, adding production in the Barents Sea faces other hurdles with the area’s first oil platform, Eni SpA’s Goliat, under scrutiny on both its finances and safety. Proceedings in the Oslo District Court are scheduled to run from Nov. 14 to Nov. 22. While a court spokesman said it’s too early to say when a ruling can be expected, a Greenpeace spokeswoman said it would probably not be until early next year. The case’s docket number is 16-166674TVI-OTIR/06.