Norway asks human rights court to dismiss Arctic oil case

The activists appealed to the European court after losing a bid to halt Arctic drilling in Norway's national courts.

By Nerijus Adomaitis, Reuters, Nora Buli, Reuters - April 28, 2022
A fishing boat enters the harbour at the Arctic port of Svolvaer in northern Norway on March 4, 2013. (Alister Doyle / Reuters File Photo)

OSLO — Norway asked the European Court of Human Rights to dismiss a case brought by Norwegian climate activists who are seeking to stop oil exploration in the Arctic, a document seen by Reuters on Wednesday showed.

“The Government respectfully invites the Court to find that the complaint is inadmissible or that there has been no violation,” the office of the Attorney General for Civil Affairs said in a filing to the court.

The lawsuit by six individuals in their 20s, supported by Greenpeace and Young Friends of the Earth, is part of an emerging branch of law worldwide where plaintiffs go to court to make the case for curbing emissions that cause climate change.

[‘The People vs Arctic Oil’: Climate activists target Norway at human rights court]

The activists have asked the ECHR to rule against Norway’s plans to drill for more oil in the Arctic waters, arguing that it endangers the environment and deprives young people of their future.

In the Netherlands, a court has ordered oil major Shell to speed up emission cuts in a landmark win for environmentalists, although the company has since appealed the verdict.

Stable energy supply

In its document, the attorney general also highlighted Norway’s role as a stable and predictable energy supplier to Europe in the wake of the Ukraine war and “Russia’s instrumentalization of energy,” a statement environmentalist vehemently rebutted.

“War in 2022 does not legitimate oil decisions taken in 2016 nor that we need new production for several more decades to come,” Frode Pleym, the head of Greenpeace Norge, said in a statement.

In the Norwegian climate case, plaintiffs argue that by allowing new oil drilling in the midst of a climate crisis, Norway is in breach of fundamental human rights.

They appealed to the ECHR after three domestic courts, including Norway’s top court, rejected their calls to stop the exploration.

The ECHR still has to decided whether the case, billed by the activists as “the People vs. Arctic Oil,” is admissible.

Norway is western Europe’s largest oil and gas producer with a daily output of around 4 million barrels of oil equivalent.