Norway in court for oil licences

Norway in court for oil licences

Environmental activists are suing the Norwegian government for issuing oil exploration licences, despite signing up to the Paris accord on climate change.

Greenpeace, whose activists have previously scaled rigs in open seas, has now taken the Oslo government to court over the licences, claiming they breach the constitution.

The charter, amended in 2014, guarantees the right to a healthy environment.

Court cases started on Tuesday in Oslo.

The licence recipients include Norway’s state-owned Statoil, Chevron and ConocoPhillips from the US, Germany’s DEA, Russia’s Lukoil, Swedish Lundin, Japan’s Idemitsu and OMV of Austria.

Norway’s Energy Minister Terje Soviknes said last year’s award of 10 licences in the Barents Sea, which followed a parliamentary decision to open an entirely new area bordering Russian waters to exploration, was lawful. They are the first licences to be issued in 20 years.

The award was based on thorough scientific, administrative and political procedures, Soviknes insisted.

Oil has made Norway one of the world’s wealthiest nations and helped it build a US$1-trillion wealth fund but more Norwegians fear climate change and the rapid transformation of global energy markets.

Greenpeace and Norway’s Nature and Youth group, which is also involved with the case, say energy firms have discovered more oil and gas than the world can safely burn.

“There are many forces who are using different venues to win over public opinion to the view that it’s not right to go ahead with new exploration and developments,” Soviknes told Bloomberg.

“There’s no reason why Norwegian oil and gas resources shouldn’t be competitive on the global market. There is no basis to make a legal issue of a decision made by a broad majority in Parliament,” the minister said.

Greenpeace’s Norway boss Truls Gulowsen told the BBC: “Our main logic here is to address the challenge that the world as such has already found more fossil fuels than the world can already burn, in order to combat climate change within 2 or 1.5°C.

“So this is not about Norway’s emissions only. It’s about the imbalance in the world’s carbon budget and the need for fossil-fuel-producing countries to stop looking for more oil when we have already found more than the world can afford that we continue to burn.”

Oil is key to Norway’s economy. Picture credit: MaxPixel

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