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Norway Arctic Oil Drilling Ends Up In European Human Rights Court

The years-long battle of climate activists to have Norway stop drilling for oil in the Arctic is now at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), which has requested that Norway to respond to the so-called ‘the People vs. Arctic Oil’ court application.

At the end of 2020, the Norwegian Supreme Court voted 11-4 to reject a lawsuit from environmental groups that had sued Norway for opening up acreage in the Arctic to oil drilling years ago.

In 2016, environmentalist organizations, including the Norwegian chapter of Greenpeace and Natur og Ungdom (Nature and Youth), took the Norwegian government to court over the awarding of oil drilling licenses in the Arctic, arguing that the 2015 licenses should be withdrawn as they violate Norway’s constitution and the country’s pledge to fulfill the terms of the Paris Climate Agreement.

After the Norwegian Supreme Court struck down the lawsuit, the organizations turned in June 2021 to the European Court of Human Rights, arguing “that by allowing new oil drilling in the midst of a climate crisis, Norway is in breach of fundamental human rights,” Greenpeace Norway says.

The European Court of Human Rights now requests an answer from the Norwegian government by April 13.

“The Court’s request to the Norwegian Government is a significant development, as just one out of ten cases reach this point. It is of great importance to have these questions deliberated on a European level, after the lacklustre treatment of the human rights issues from the Norwegian Supreme Court. A judgement from ECtHR would be important not just for Norway, but also for the pan-European application of the European Convention on Human Rights in climate cases,” said Cathrine Hambro, the lawyer representing the applicants in the case.

The ECtHR considers that this application may become an “impact case”, which indicates that the case raises important questions “capable of having an impact on the effectiveness of the European Convention system”, or has “major implications for domestic legal systems or for the European system,” said the campaigners suing Western Europe’s biggest oil and gas producer.

Tsvetana Paraskova

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