Young Norwegian environmentalists ask European Court of Human Rights to secure their rights


Strasbourg/Oslo – Six young activists and two environmental organisations are asking the European Court of Human Rights to secure their rights in the face of climate change by ceasing all new licences for exploration of oil and gas issued by the Norwegian State.

The applicants argue that the Norwegian State’s new oil drilling is in breach of their human rights. In their observations on law and facts from the government response, the applicants ask the court to order the Norwegian State to cease all new licences for exploration of oil and gas.

“We are not asking for the right to live better than the generation before us, we are only asking for the right to live without the unbearable burden of catastrophic climate change, for the right to dream again of a future,” said Gaute Eiterjord, one of the youth activists behind the application and former head of Young Friends of the Earth Norway.

In 2016, the Norwegian government opened up new areas for oil drilling in the Barents Sea, further north than ever before, in the fragile and diminishing Arctic. In June 2021, after fighting for years in the Norwegian legal system, six young activists and environmental organisations Young Friends of the Earth Norway and Greenpeace Nordic filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights.

The court asked the Norwegian government to answer several questions relating to the case. Now, the applicants have filed their responses to the government’s observations. They argue that the decision to issue new licences for oil and gas extraction in the Norwegian Arctic violates their fundamental human rights and increases the disproportionate risk of harm faced by the applicants due to climate change. The applicants do not claim to represent society as a whole, but rather argue that the licences constitute a breach of their individual rights.

“The Norwegian State’s inadequate environmental and climate policies are discriminatory against us, the younger generation, as it means that we have to bear a heavier climate burden in the future,” said Eiterjord.

New data has revealed extreme rates of global heating in the Arctic, up to seven times higher than the global average. During the last 20 years, the temperature in northeastern Svalbard has increased by up to 5.4 °C degrees, the greatest heating documented in the world.

“It is the biggest irony in our time, that the Norwegian State is drilling for new oil further and further north in the same area that is melting due to climate change,” said Eiterjord.

In their application, the applicants argue that the primary obligation of states when a threat to life exists is to adopt a legal framework to protect the lives of its inhabitants. If the threat or risk to life is “serious” or “real and immediate”, the state must undertake preventive measures to reduce the risk. The applicants argue that the state should cease handing out new licences for the exploration of oil and gas in order to avoid a continuous breach of their human rights.

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