Sámi protesters, Thunberg, end wind turbine demonstrations

The center-left minority government on Thursday apologized to Sámi groups for the construction of the turbines.

By Victoria Klesty, Reuters, Nora Buli, Reuters - March 3, 2023

OSLO — Hundreds of Indigenous and environmental campaigners, including Greta Thunberg, blocked the main road to Norway’s royal palace on Friday as they ended their nine-day protest to tear down wind turbines built on reindeer pastures used by Sámi herders.

Demonstrators had urged government action after Norway’s supreme court ruled in 2021 that 151 turbines erected at Fosen in central Norway violated Sámi rights under international conventions, but remained in operation 17 months later.

Saying that a transition to green energy should not come at the expense of Indigenous rights, protesters blocked access to several ministries, putting the center-left minority government in crisis mode.

On Thursday the government apologized to Sámi groups for the construction of the turbines, part of a complex that is Europe’s largest onshore wind farm, calling it a “human rights violation,” while also urging a solution allowing power output.

“It’s good to get an apology but that doesn’t in itself give our animals any more grazing lands,” Terje Haugen, one of the affected reindeer herders, told reporters after meeting the prime minister on Friday.

While hundreds protested in front of the royal palace, as ministers met King Harald for their weekly cabinet meeting, hundreds more demonstrated in front of parliament, waving Sámi flags and some wearing their traditional gakti inside out in protest.

“We have made the government take responsibility for the ongoing violations of human rights and apologize,” Sámi artist and campaigner Ella Marie Haetta Isaksen told Reuters.

“I hope the government will learn from this and that we can get guarantees that it will never happen again.”

The supreme court ruling in the Fosen case affects other projects under development — be it mines, power lines or wind farms — as vast swathes of territory are used by Sámi herders as reindeer pastures, particularly in central and northern Norway.

“This case is bigger than just Fosen,” Christian Rynning-Toennesen, the head of utility Statkraft and the operator of one of the affected wind farms, told reporters on Thursday.

“What kind of process should one have for all of these areas? So it’s very important to get some precise agreements on what kind of rules should apply.”

This article has been fact-checked by Arctic Today and Polar Research and Policy Initiative, with the support of the EMIF managed by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

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