GREENPEACE Nordic and Natur og Ungdom (Young Friends of the Earth Norway) have secured an historic win against the Norwegian State, rendering the approvals of three oil and gas fields in the North Sea invalid.

In November 2023, environmental organisation Greenpeace Nordic and youth group Natur og Ungdom took the Norwegian State to court once again. The organisations argued that recent approvals of three new oil and gas fields, Breidablikk, Yggdrasil and Tyrving, all in the North Sea, violate the Norwegian Constitution, European Economic Area law and Norway’s international human rights commitments. They also argued the Ministry of Energy failed to consider the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child during the approval of the fields, thus rendering the approvals invalid.

“I am extremely pleased and relieved that the Court has delivered such a positive and thorough judgement. The judgement establishes that the Breidablikk, Yggdrasil and Tyrving oil and gas fields were approved on an illegal basis and that production must be stopped immediately. We expect a halt to all further developments,” said Frode Pleym, Head of Greenpeace, Norway

Specifically, the organisations pointed to the fact that impact assessments of the three oil and gas fields’ global climate effects, which the Ministry of Energy is required to carry out, are either highly inadequate or non-existent.

The judgement delivered on 18 January by the Oslo District Court, has found the approvals of all three oil and gas fields invalid and has issued an injunction forbidding the state from granting any new permits necessary to construct and produce from the fields.

“This is an important victory for current and future generations and the environment. With this judgement, millions of barrels of oil will remain in the ground. During the trial, the State tried to diminish the impact of the emissions Breidablikk, Tyrving and Yggdrasil would have globally. As confirmed by the court’s decision, emissions from the oil fields would have catastrophic effects on the global climate, on people and the planet. We are pleased the oil and gas will remain untouched in the ground, instead of further exacerbating climate disasters”, said Gytis Blaževičius, Head of Natur og Ungdom.

The Court also emphasised procedural problems of the approval process, highlighting the lack of adequate public participation, and found that the approvals were inadequate under EU law. and that “combustion emissions [from] petroleum extraction are such a significant and particularly characteristic consequence of such projects that they must clearly be considered indirect climate impacts within the meaning of the (EU) Project Directive”.

The Court confirmed that the government violated legal precedent from the Norwegian Supreme Court, by not subjecting combustion emissions to an environmental impact assessment.

The Court held that the children’s right to be heard would be safeguarded through public hearings that must take place in connection with lawfully required environmental impact assessments. Anticipating clarifications from the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, the District Court refrained from assessing violations of the Convention.

More and more people, particularly those most impacted by climate change, are using the law to protect their rights from the climate crisis. This ruling becomes another substantial reference point for all climate lawsuits pending around the world.

* More information on the legal case here.

* Source: Greenpeace International