Is the State of Norway killing its own citizens with oil?

The State of Norway has again to show up in court because it has given company licenses to drill for oil in the Arctic region. After lower judges ruled it was kind of okay, environmental watchdog Greenpeace and two Norwegian organisation are stepping up their efforts and want a final ruling from the highest Norwegian court on the matter.

Click to listen to my radio talk (in Dutch)
Scroll to 00:41:33 into the broadcast
VRT Radio 1, Nieuwe Feiten, 26 February 2020, in a 1-2 with program host Lieve Vandenhaute

Without much of fuzz the parliament in Oslo went along a plant to fill the Norwegian Oil Fund, with 1200 billion US dollars the worlds largest public “savings” for a rainy day, with income from Arctic oil. But Greenpeace argues this is against article 112 of Norway’s constitution. In this piece of basic law the government of the country is obligated to not only care for the environment as it is, but also safeguard it for future generations. Greenpeace says allowing oil drilling in the Arctic is not.

In a recent court decision the judge said the state of Norway was right in allowing oil businesses in the Barents Sea around Svalbard, but that there could be some truth to the constitutional unclarity of this decision. That’s why Greenpeace and the other two organisations wants to have the highest ruling. A judge should decide whether the state is right, not parliament, they argue.

So far the government of Norway got away with saying that the Norway is a very environmental friendly country, with most of its energy needs produced by hydropower. The oil and gas won in the North Sea and Norwegian Sea are exported. According to a lower court ruling this burning the oil somewhere else should actually be included in weighing the effects of the oil business.

But apart from the environmental argumentation Oslo is playing a more important, geopolitical game. With big neighbour Russia increasingly active in all kinds of Polar activities, Norway wants to mark that their part of the Barents Sea and Svalbard is their economic zone, their property and therefore something other nations – read Russia – should respect.

What the outcome will be of Greenpeace vs Norway, time will tell. |

Featured image: Monacobreen Glacier on Svalbard (Photo by Gary Bembridge)

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