Six climate activists and two environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have taken Norway to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), claiming that the Nordic country’s plans to drill for oil in the Arctic are endangering young people’s futures.
Greenpeace and Young Friends of the Earth are requesting that the court rule that Oslo’s 2016 decision to grant ten Barents Sea oil exploration licenses violated article 112 of Norway’s constitution, which guarantees the right to a healthy environment.
“The environmentalists argue that Norway is violating fundamental human rights by allowing new oil drilling in the midst of a climate crisis,” the campaigners said in a statement announcing their appeal to the ECHR.
In a landmark case brought by Friends of the Earth and 17,000 co-plaintiffs, a Dutch court recently ordered Royal Dutch Shell to cut its global carbon emissions by 45 percent from 2019 levels by the end of 2030.
Norway, Europe’s second-largest oil and gas producer, produces approximately 4 million barrels of oil equivalent per day. It announced last week that, while it is investing in hydrogen and offshore wind as part of its green energy transition, it will continue to extract oil and gas until at least 2050, and possibly longer.
Three successive Norwegian courts rejected the campaigners’ arguments, culminating in a ruling by the country’s supreme court that granting oil permits was not a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights because it did not pose a “real and immediate risk” to life and physical integrity.
Greenpeace said in a statement that the ruling was flawed because it “discounted the significance of their environmental constitutional rights and failed to take into account an accurate assessment of the consequences of climate change for future generations.”
The European Court of Human Rights, which will now decide whether the activists’ appeal – dubbed “the people v Arctic oil” – is admissible, requires cases it hears to be “directly and personally” affecting applicants. Its decisions are binding on the countries involved.
“The effects of climate change are already dramatic for those of us who live close to nature,” said Ella Marie Htta Isaksen, one of the activists, who are all between the ages of 20 and 27. “We must act now to limit irreversible damage to our climate and ecosystems in order to ensure livelihoods for future generations.”
Another of the activists, Lasse Eriksen Bjrn of the indigenous Sami people of northern Norway, said the exploration licenses were a “violation of articles 2 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, granting me the right to be protected against decisions endangering my life and wellbeing.”
He described the Sami culture as “closely related to the use of nature, and fisheries are essential,” adding that “a threat to our oceans is a threat to our people.”
The ECHR’s rules require applicants to be directly and personally affected by alleged violations, while its judgments are binding for the countries concerned.
The court must now decide whether the case, billed by the activists as “the People vs. Arctic Oil”, is admissible.
Mia Chamberlain, a third applicant, stated that the climate crisis and government inaction are “robbing me of hope for the future” and leading to depression. “Our application to the ECHR is a manifestation of action and hope in the face of this crisis,” says the applicant.