Norway’s top court opens hearing on Arctic oil exploration case

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Stockholm, Nov. 4, 2020 (dpa/Naija247news) Norway’s top court on Wednesday opened a hearing on an appeal lodged by conservation groups to block new exploration licence in the Barents Sea off northern Norway.

The plaintiffs, including Greenpeace and the Young Friends of the Earth Norway, have argued that the licenses violated an article in the Norwegian constitution, known as article 112, guaranteeing the right to a healthy and viable environment.

They sued the Norwegian state in 2016.

Subsequently, the Grandparents Climate Campaign and Friends of the Earth Norway joined the case.

“The youth of today and future generations will have to bear the consequences if efforts fail to limit greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change,“ said Cathrine Hambro, lawyer for the conservation groups.

International climate researchers have warned of the effects of global warming, ranging from rising sea levels to heat waves and the acidification of oceans that absorb carbon dioxide and can affect fish stocks, she said in her opening statement.

“The climate crisis challenges us because nature’s tolerance limit is global,’’ Hambro said.

Exploiting oil and gas from the new areas in the Barents Sea could also make it easier for other Arctic states to drill for oil, Hambro noted.

The conservation groups claim that if Norway continues to explore and drill for oil and gas, it will not be able to meet its pledge of reducing emissions under the 2015 Paris Agreement aimed at mitigating global warming.

“Opening up the Arctic for oil drilling in the time of climate emergency is unacceptable, and the Norwegian government must be held accountable,’’ Frode Pleym, head of Greenpeace Norway, said in a comment.

Two lower Norwegian courts have already rejected their claims; the Borgarting Court of Appeal did so in January in a unanimous ruling.

The state, represented by Attorney General Fredrik Sejerstad, has said there had been a thorough vetting process for the permits to explore oil and gas in the Barents Sea.

Sejersted was to address the court at a later stage, and told reporters he would not comment Hambro’s statement until then, public broadcaster NRK reported.

The Supreme Court has reserved seven days for the hearing, which is scheduled to end on Nov. 12.

Three of the 20 justices have been rescued, one of them for being married to a judge who participated in the appeal court ruling.

The proceedings were held online due to coronavirus restrictions.

Similar cases have been launched in other countries.

The Dutch Supreme Court in 2019 supported a case launched by environmental group Urgenda aimed at forcing the Dutch government to cut emissions of greenhouse gases.

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