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Blow to Norwegian environmentalists as lawsuit over Arctic oil defeated

A Norwegian court on Thursday dismissed an appeal by two environmental groups which had sued Norway for granting new oil licenses in the Arctic.

Blow to Norwegian environmentalists as lawsuit over Arctic oil defeated
A file photo showing a Greenpeace boat off the Norwegian coast. Photo: AFP

Greenpeace and Natur og Ungdom (Nature and Youth) had called for the cancellation of exploration licenses granted in May 2016 to 13 oil companies in the fragile Arctic region, saying the concessions violated the Norwegian constitution which since 2014 guarantees the right to a healthy environment.

They argued that new oil activities in the region would be contrary to the 2016 Paris climate accord, which seeks to limit average global warming to under two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and which Norway has signed.

The Oslo district court had ruled in January 2018 that the licenses were not illegal, a decision upheld unanimously by the appeals court on Thursday.

The plaintiffs said Thursday they would appeal to the Supreme Court, Norway's highest court.

In its ruling, the appeals court found that it was “uncertain that commercial discoveries (of oil and gas) would be made” in the area, rendering purely hypothetical the prospect of potential emissions from future oil and gas fields.

It also noted that the Norwegian oil sector was covered by the European carbon dioxide quota system, which means that production from any future fields in the area would not result in a net rise in emissions.

As western Europe's biggest oil producer, Norway owes much of its wealth to oil and gas.

The case concerned licenses granted for 40 blocs in the Barents Sea, a part of the Arctic that the oil industry considers very promising but where test drilling has been disappointing so far.

Those awarded concessions included the partially state-owned Statoil (later renamed Equinor), US giants Chevron and ConocoPhillips, and Russia's Lukoil.

The case illustrates how the battle against global warming is increasingly being fought in the courts.

In the Netherlands, the Supreme Court in December ordered the Dutch government to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020, in a landmark case brought by an environmental group.

READ ALSO: Greenpeace boat detained by Norway coastguard over action at oil rig

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ALMEDALEN 2022

Green Party leader: ‘Right-wing parties want to push us out of parliament’

Per Bolund, joint leader of Sweden's Green party, spoke for thirteen and a half minutes at Almedalen before he mentioned the environment, climate, or fossil fuels, in a speech that began by dwelling on healthcare, women's rights, and welfare, before returning to the party's core issue.

Green Party leader: 'Right-wing parties want to push us out of parliament'

After an introduction by his joint leader Märta Stenevi, Bolund declared that his party was going into the election campaign on a promise “to further strengthen welfare, with more staff and better working conditions in healthcare, and school without profit-making, where the money goes to the pupils and not to dividends for shareholders”. 

Only then did he mention the party’s efforts when in government to “build the world’s first fossil-free welfare state”. 

“We know that if we want welfare to work in the future, we must have an answer to our time’s biggest crisis: the threat to the environment and the climate,” he said.

“We know that there is no welfare on a dead planet. We need to take our society into a new time, where we end our dependency on oil, meet the threat to the climate, and build a better welfare state within nature’s boundaries, what we call a new, green folkhem [people’s home].” 

He presented green policies as something that makes cities more liveable, with the new sommargågator — streets pedestrianised in the summer — showing how much more pleasant a life less dependent on cars might be.  

He then said his party wanted Sweden to invest 100 billion kronor a year on speeding up the green transition, to make Sweden fossil fuel-free by 2030. 

“We talk about the climate threat because it’s humanity’s biggest challenge, our biggest crisis,” he said. “And because we don’t have much time.” 

In the second half of his speech, however, Bolund used more traditional green party rhetoric, accusing the other political parties in Sweden of always putting off necessary green measures, because they do not seem urgent now, like a middle-aged person forgetting to exercise. 

“We know that we need to cut emissions radically if we are even going to have a chance of meeting our climate goal, but for all the other parties there’s always a reason to delay,” he said. 

“We are now seeing the curtain go up on the backlash in climate politics in Sweden. All the parties have now chosen to slash the biofuels blending mandate which means that we reduce emissions from petrol and diesel step for step, so you automatically fill your tank in a greener way. Just the government’s decision to pause the  reduction mandate will increase emissions by a million tonnes next year.” 

The right-wing parties, he warned, were also in this election running a relentless campaign against the green party. 

“The rightwing parties seem to have given up trying to win the election on their own policies,” he said. “Trying to systematically push out of parliament seems to be their way of trying to take power. And they don’t seem above any means. Slander campaigns, lies, and false information have become every day in Swedish right-wing politics.” 

He ended the speech with an upbeat note. 

“A better, more sustainable world is possible. There is a future to long for. If you give us a chance then that future is much closer than you think!”

Read the speech here in Swedish and here in (Google Translated) English. 

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