The People versus Arctic Oil litigation, Norway

Norwegian youth and environmentalists sue the Norwegian government for granting licenses to drill for fossil fuels in the Arctic. They demand climate justice and their right to a healthy environment .


Greenpeace together with the Norwegian group Nature and Youth (Natur og Ungdom) have taken the Norwegian government to court over their decision to open up areas of the Arctic Ocean for oil exploration. They are basing their legal claims on Section 112 of the Norwegian constitution which gives the right to a healthy environment, as well as the country’s commitment to the Paris Agreement.

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Basic Data
NameThe People versus Arctic Oil litigation, Norway
SiteBarents Sea
Accuracy of LocationLOW country/state level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Climate change related conflicts (glaciers and small islands)
Specific CommoditiesCrude oil
Natural Gas
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsOn the 18th May 2016, the Government of Norway resolved to offer 13 companies ten production licenses for oil and gas in the 23rd licensing round. The production licenses were awarded by Order in Council on the 10th June 2016 (Licensing Decision). For the first time in more than 20 years, Norway opened new acreage to the oil and gas industry in the Arctic Barents Sea. Ten days later, on the 20th June 2016, Norway became the first developed country to ratify the Paris Agreement, which enters into force on the 4th November 2016. The licensing round covers parts of the Barents Sea, and will open up petroleum production in more northerly and easterly areas than in the past. The licensing round thus establishes production in an area with very little existing infrastructure and partly in an area that has never before been explored. [9]

In the northern part of the Barents Sea, not yet open for exploration, there are undiscovered resources estimated at 1.4 billion cubic metres (8.6 billion barrels) of oil equivalents, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate has said. [11].

The 13 oil companies that have new license blocks in the Barents Sea, and would be affected by the verdict, are: Statoil (Norway), Capricorn, Tullow and Centrica (UK), Chevron and ConocoPhillips (USA), DEA (Germany), Aker BP (Norway), Idemitsu (Japan), Lukoil (Russia), Lundin Petroleum (Sweden), OMV (Austria), PGNiG (Norway/Poland)
Project Area (in hectares)40,000
Type of PopulationUnknown
Start Date01/10/2016
Company Names or State EnterprisesStatoil from Norway
Tullow Oil Plc from United Kingdom
from United States of America
Aker BP from Norway
Capricorn from United Kingdom
Centrica from United Kingdom
ConocoPhillips Alaska from United States of America
DEA from Germany
Idemitsu from Japan
Lukoil from Russian Federation
Lundin Petroleum from Sweden
OMV from Austria
PGNIG from Norway
Statoil from Norway
Relevant government actorsThe Government of Norway represented by the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy
International and Financial InstitutionsNorges Bank from Norway
Statens pensjonsfond from Norway
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersGreenpeace -

Natur og Ungdom -

Norwegian Grandparents' Climate CAmpaign -
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationArtistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Global warming, Oil spills
Health ImpactsPotential: Deaths
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Violations of human rights
Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCourt decision (failure for environmental justice)
Under negotiation
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Although an important and inspiring step for climate litigation and climate justice activists, the court did not rule against oil drilling in the Arctic.
Sources and Materials

Norway's Constitution of 1814 with Amendments through 2014
[click to view]

Paris Agreement
[click to view]


Norway must prepare for Arctic oil race with Russia (Reuters)
[click to view]

[7]THE WAVE IS ROLLING! (Greencaster)
[click to view]

[click to view]

[3] The People vs. Arctic Oil; “The Arctic is Ground Zero for Climate Change.” (Greenpeace)
[click to view]

[1] Thirteen companies are offered ten production licences in the 23rd licensing round (Norwegian Petroleum Directorate)
[click to view]

[6] We’re taking Arctic oil to Court (Greenpeace)
[click to view]

[4] Norway oil: Environmentalists sue over oil exploration (BBC)
[click to view]

[5] This is The People vs. Arctic Oil (Greenpeace)
[click to view]

[9] The People vs Arctic Oil: Historic climate trial ends (Greenpeace)
[click to view]

Decision made in case against Arctic Oil in Norway: Right to a healthy environment acknowledged (Greenpeace)
[click to view]

Media Links

[2] The Sun and the Darkness – Unburnable Episode #2 (Podcast)
[click to view]

Other Documents

Greenpeace Activists (Photo: Greenpeace) Greenpeace support the case, raising awareness in the Barents Sea during drilling season
[click to view]

Activists take the Norwegian Government to Court (Photo: Christian Åslund / Greenpeace) Representatives of Nature and Youth, Greenpeace, Indigenous Organisations and Climate Science unite
[click to view]

Article 112 (Photo: Friends of the Earth) Article 112 of the Norwegian Constitution, which includes the right to a healthy environment, was carved into a block of ice and placed outside the court.
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorAlice Owen [email protected]
Last update15/03/2018