The Norwegian government is facing a lawsuit from a coalition of environmental and community activist groups over the granting of oil exploration in the Arctic. Greenpeace Norway and Nature of Youth are claiming that the government has violated the constitutional right to a healthy environment and failed to respect the Paris agreement.
Although many lawsuits claim to be groundbreaking, the lawsuit against the Norwegian government may just be well so. This is the first time a state is being brought to justice for exploring new areas for gas and oil extraction after signing and approving the Paris Agreement.
Norway, which is seen internationally as a champion at protecting the environment for its continuous efforts to save the rainforest, ambitious plans to use electric cars and its pledge of climate neutrality by 2030.
The plaintiffs have filed the lawsuit against the Norwegian government on the grounds that the opening up on the new licenses for oil exploration in the Barents Sea violates the Norwegian Constitutional environmental law which guarantees the right to a healthy environment for future generations.
Norwegian Grandparents Against Climate Change has also joined the case in support of the environmental groups and as interveners against the government.
The state, however, rejected the allegations that it has violated the goals set out in the Paris Agreement and the Constitution, claiming that the lawsuit is a constitutional activism that inappropriately interprets a critical constitutional law paragraph.
What’s at stake?
The Norwegian government maintains that the issuing of licenses has no relation to the constitution, and emphasizes that the lawsuit will have immense consequences than just suspending the 23rd license round should the court find in favor of the plaintiffs.
This is the first time in nearly two decades that the Norwegian government is defending their decision to open up a new oil drilling area in the Barents Sea, by issuing 13 new licenses for oil exploration.
Campaigners have responded with a lot of support for the case by attending the courtroom dressed in traditional Norwegian costumes and made the victory sign.
At the same time, the suit is being heard at Oslo district court, Fiji is hosting the United Nations climate change conference in Bonn aiming to continue the work on the 2015 climate agreement struck in Paris.