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Norway’s top court rejects climate challenge to Arctic oil exploration

Norway's Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down a challenge from environmental groups trying to stop oil exploration in the Arctic, after a historic battle over the country's climate change commitments.

Norway's top court rejects climate challenge to Arctic oil exploration
File photo: AFP

By a vote of 11 to four, the top court rejected the argument of two organisations — Greenpeace and Young Friends of the Earth Norway — which said that the granting of 10 oil exploration licences in the Barents Sea in 2016 was unconstitutional.

Referring to the Paris Agreement, which seeks to limit global warming to less than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the organisations argued that the oil licenses violated article 112 of Norway's constitution, guaranteeing everyone the right to a healthy environment.

Their claims have already been rejected in two instances and hopes were finally dashed by the Supreme Court, which delivered the verdict by videoconference.

The majority of the court did agree with the activists that article 112 could be invoked if the state failed to meet its climate and environmental obligations — but they did not think it was applicable in this case.

The court also held that the granting of oil permits was not contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights, in part because they did not represent “a real and immediate risk” to life and physical integrity.

“We are outraged with this judgement, which leaves youth and future generations without constitutional protection,” Therese Hugstmyr Woie, head of Young Friends of the Earth Norway, said in a statement.

“The Supreme Court chooses loyalty to Norwegian oil over our rights to a liveable future,” she added.

Prior to the Supreme Court ruling, Greenpeace had floated the idea of taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

The group has described the case as a “historical” one that could influence the future oil policy of Norway, the biggest producer of hydrocarbons in Western Europe.

This case also follows a global trend that sees climate change increasingly appearing in court cases.

In the Netherlands in 2019, the state was ordered to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25 percent before 2020 after a case was brought to the country's highest court by the environmental group Urgenda.

READ ALSO: Norway oil licensing round 'insanely irresponsible': green group

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ENVIRONMENT

Sweden to set world’s first consumption-based emissions target

Sweden political parties have unanimously backed the world's first consumption-based emissions target, with the country aiming to hit net zero by 2045.

Sweden to set world's first consumption-based emissions target

The committee responsible for setting Sweden’s environmental goals on Thursday presented its proposals for what goals Sweden should set for greenhouse has emissions linked to the country’s consumption. 

“No other country in the world has done what we have done,” Emma Nohrén, chair of the climate goals committee, said at a press conference announcing the goals. “There has been a pioneering sprit.” 

About 60 percent of the emissions caused by people living in Sweden are released in other countries producing goods to be consumed in Sweden, meaning Sweden’s production-based emissions goals, like those of other countries, arguably misrepresent Sweden’s impact.  

In a press statement, the government said that as well as the 2045 consumption emissions target, the committee has suggested setting targets for the climate impact of its exports, include emissions from flights and cargo ships in its long-term national climate goals, and aim to include emissions from internal flights in its target for domestic transport by 2030.  

The committee also proposes that emissions from goods and services ordered by the public sector should decline at a faster rate than those of the rest of the country. 

Amanda Palmstierna, an MP for the Green Party who sits on the committee, said it was positive that the new goals had the backing of all seven of Sweden’s parliamentary parties. 

“It’s important that all the parties are backing this proposal so that it can become implemented,” she said. “Significant action is required now. We have so little time, as we saw in the IPCC report which came out on Monday.”  

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