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Norway – selfish and principled

The government has accelerated the announcement of new oil exploration blocks in the Barents Sea – in sheer desperation to keep a dying industry alive, says Truls Gulowsen in Greenpeace.

This article is machine translated by Google from Norwegian

In November, Norway's first climate court case will be brought before the Oslo District Court. The question that will be decided is whether Norway can continue to add new oil recovery into the future, while also helping to limit global warming to below two degrees. Despite the pending lawsuit, which deals with the licenses distributed in 23. last year's licensing round, there is nothing to suggest that the government is putting the brakes on. I 24. The concession round, which has been in consultation for the past few months, proposes that the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy announce the entire 93 new blocks in the Barents Sea. At the same time, Statoil is planning a drilling campaign in fields covered by the lawsuit, already this summer.

In May, Statoil's general meeting rejected a proposal from Greenpeace to stop exploration drilling on these licenses until there is a final judgment in the case. "We relate to the fact that we will conduct work according to valid exploration permits granted by a broad majority in the Storting," says Morten Eek, spokesperson for Statoil ASA, to Ny Tid. «The award of licenses such as Korpfjell and Gemini Nord has given us and other companies exploration rights, and with this also comes work obligations. The licensees undertake to conduct investigations for oil and gas deposits in the areas allocated by the authorities. "

North Sea 20170213. The Ivar Aasen field is located between Sørlige Vikinggraben and Utsirahøyden in the North Sea, about 175 km west of Karmøy. Photo: Håkon Mosvold Larsen / NTB scanpix

A bet against the climate goals. Ny Tid asks Truls Gulowsen, leader of Greenpeace Norway, why they have sued the state to stop new oil extraction in the Barents Sea. "There are several reasons for that," says Gulowsen. "We have been trying to get Norwegian politicians and the authorities to understand the connection between Norwegian oil policy and the global climate challenge for a long time. It is very difficult when they are world champions in talking about climate at the same time as they pretend it has no consequences whatsoever for our oil and gas. The calculations of the UN Climate Panel clearly show that large amounts of oil and gas must remain if the 1,5- or 2-degree target is to be reached. Nevertheless, the majority in the Storting believes that this should have no consequences for Norwegian oil policy and the announcement of new fields. "

The 20. June last year, Norway ratified the Paris Agreement, which aims to ensure that the world limits global warming to below two degrees. Only ten days earlier, however, ten production licenses were granted in that 23. the licensing round, which includes the Barents Sea south and southeast. This lack of connection between Norway's oil policy and the measures needed to deal with the climate crisis is the basis for Greenpeace and Nature and Youth's lawsuits. Gulowsen does not conceal what he thinks about paving the way for Norway to continue oil extraction for many decades to come: "It is selfish, in principle, and it is a bet against that the world must reach a responsible climate goal. This shows desperation on the part of the oil industry – we must move into ever more extreme and vulnerable areas in order to sustain a dying industry. ”

"The courts will consider whether politicians are acting within the limits set by the Constitution."

Controversy over the Constitution. Section 112 of the Constitution states that everyone has the right to an environment that ensures health, and that the diversity of nature must be preserved and resources used so that this right is also preserved for future generations. The upcoming trial will be the first time the section is tried in the court system, and much of the battle will be about how it should be interpreted. According to the environmental organizations, the section must be interpreted so that there are absolute limits to what interventions can be done in nature. The state, by Attorney General Fredrik Sejersted, believes the section obliges the state to put in place measures to safeguard the environment – but that exactly how large interventions can be allowed must be a discretionary political assessment.

Several major newspapers, including Klassekampen, have published in support of the position that this is a political matter that must be decided in the Storting, and not in the judicial system. To Ny Tid, editor Bjørgulv Braanen says the following: "I think it is only natural that people can try the legislation we have legally, but it is unfortunate if we get a development where political issues are more and more decided by the judiciary and not by elected assemblies. I think it could be a threat to democracy. " Although the lawsuit formally attacks an administrative decision, there is no doubt that the granting of the licenses in the 23rd licensing round is based on several Storting decisions. Gulowsen nevertheless believes that this is democracy in practice. "The courts can and must assess whether politicians act within the limits set by the Constitution. When there is a mismatch between the law and political decisions, it is the law that applies, and there are no exceptions for oil matters, "says Gulowsen.

"More oil and gas has already been found in the world than we can burn without destroying the climate. Therefore, something must be left. ”

Is Norwegian Oil Cleaner? Supporters of continued development on the Norwegian shelf often point out that Norwegian oil has the lowest production emissions in the world. According to a report from the interest organization KonKraft on the climate and the Norwegian continental shelf, only the Middle East has so far lower emissions of greenhouse gases during the production phase than Norway. The consumption itself, or the incineration of the oil, which comes later, is not included in the calculation. Still: If low Norwegian production emissions are to have a climate effect, it must be assumed that Norwegian oil will outperform oil with higher production emissions elsewhere in the world. Whether this will happen is not just about the economy and climate, but also about the geopolitics and distribution of oil revenues worldwide.

For environmental organizations, it is not just talking about production emissions. The international climate regime is organized so that the country where the oil is burned should be responsible for the emissions associated with the combustion. The state's response to the environmental organizations' application emphasizes that emissions related to the combustion of Norwegian oil exported are not relevant. For Gulowsen, this does not hold the argument. "The bottom line is that more oil and gas has already been found in the world than we can burn without destroying the climate. Therefore, something must be left, and of this there should certainly be some Norwegian, ”says Gulowsen. Although the parties to the Paris agreement agreed that global warming should be limited to two degrees, and preferably closer to 1,5, not enough emissions cuts have been reported to reach the target. That is why environmental organizations believe that participation in today's international climate regime objectively is not good enough. "Today's climate policy at European level takes us to global warming at 3,5 degrees," says Gulowsen.

also read "New report: Adjustment is possible, but will cost"

Tori Aarseth
Aarseth is a political scientist and a regular journalist at Ny Tid.

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