Norway proposes extending ‘ice edge’ to limit Arctic drilling

Norway's government has proposed extending the 'ice edge' that limits how far into the Arctic oil companies are allowed to explore further south, in a sign that normal political life is starting to resume.

Norway proposes extending 'ice edge' to limit Arctic drilling
The new 'ice edge' has been marked further south than that decided in 2015. Photo: Norwegian Government
The government has proposed drawing the line at the point where there is sea ice for an average of 15 percent of the days in April. 
“With a limit of 15 percent ice frequency, we will take better care of the environment and reduce the risk of damaging vulnerable nature,” Sveinung Rotevatn, Norway's Minister of Climate and Environment, said in a press release, outlining its new plan for managing its Arctic waters. 
The proposal is the first significant political act of the government since the coronavirus crisis hit in mid-March. 
After the announcement, oil minister Tina Bru said she hoped that once the management plan had been agreed it would open the way for a new oil exploration licensing round. 
The government had previously set the limit to areas with ice cover on 30 percent of the days in April. 
But in an article in the VG newspaper, Lars Halbrekken, deputy leader of the Socialist Left party said the decision “roughly and brutally overrides” the scientific advice from the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research and the Norwegian Polar Institute. 
“In reality, the environment and nature are the losers,” he wrote. “It sounds essentially good that the limit for what is the ice edge has been changed from 30 percent ice frequency to 15 percent ice frequency.” 
But he said the increasing global temperatures meant that the sea area open to exploitation was essentially the same. 
The problem is that these percentages cannot be compared. If you place the new 15 percent limit on the same map as the old 30 percent limit, you will see they largely follow one another.”
The scientific advice, he complained, had been to set the line at 0.5% ice frequency.
Espen Barth Eide, environmental spokesman for the Labour Party, would on Friday not comment on the proposal. 
The proposal came as Norway's supreme court on Monday said that it would hear a lawsuit brought by Greenpeace and other environmental groups, seeking to annul Arctic oil exploration licences awarded in 2016. 
Together with Natur og Ungdom (Nature and Youth), part of Friends of the Earth International, Greenpeace had sued the government calling for licenses granted to 13 oil companies to be annulled because they infringe a constitutional right to a healthy environment. 
Oslo district court ruled in January 2018 that the licenses were not illegal, a decision upheld unanimously by an appeals court in January. 


Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


NGOs take Norway to European Court over Arctic oil exploration

Two NGOs and six young climate activists have decided to take Norway to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to demand the cancellation of oil permits in the Arctic, Greenpeace announced on Tuesday.

NGOs take Norway to European Court over Arctic oil exploration
Northern Norway. Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash.

It’s the latest turn in a legal tussle between environmental organisations Greenpeace and Young Friends of the Earth Norway on one side and the Norwegian state on the other.

The organisations are demanding the government cancel 10 oil exploration licenses in the Barents Sea awarded in 2016, arguing it 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 claim that the oil licenses violated article 112 of Norway’s constitution, guaranteeing everyone the right to a healthy environment.”

The six activists, alongside Greenpeace Nordic and Young Friends of the Earth Norway, hope that the European Court of Human Rights will hear their case and find that Norway’s oil expansion is in breach of human rights,” Greenpeace said in a statement.

In December, Norway’s Supreme Court rejected the claim brought by the organisations, their third successive legal defeat.

READ MORE: Norway sees oil in its future despite IEA’s warnings 

While most of the judges on the court agreed that article 112 could be invoked if the state failed to meet its climate and environmental obligations– 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.

“The young activists and the environmental organisations argue that this judgment was flawed, as it discounted the significance of their environmental constitutional rights and did not take into account an accurate assessment of the consequences of climate change for the coming generations,” Greenpeace said.

On Friday, the Norwegian government unveiled a white paper on the country’s energy future, which still includes oil exploration despite a warning from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The IEA recently warned that all future fossil fuel projects must be scrapped if the world is to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The Norwegian case is an example of a global trend in which climate activists are increasingly turning to courts to pursue their agenda.