- The Norwegian State Must Be Convicted in Climate Lawsuit

Professor emeritus Gunnar Kvåle of the Department of Public Global Health and Primary Care at the University of Bergen argues that the Norwegian state should be found guilty in the current climate lawsuit. (Photo: Illustration from the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association/private)
Several law professors, a former supreme court judge, academics and scientists support Young Friends of the Earth Norway and Greenpeace in their lawsuit against the Norwegian state. – I believe the state should be convicted in the climate lawsuite, says Professor Emeritus Gunnar Kvåle of the Department of Public Global Health and Primary Care at the University of Bergen.


Several law professors, a former supreme court judge, academics and scientists support Young Friends of the Earth Norway and Greenpeace in their lawsuit against the Norwegian state. – I believe the state should be convicted in the climate lawsuite, says Professor Emeritus Gunnar Kvåle of the Department of Public Global Health and Primary Care at the University of Bergen.

He says that climate gas emissions already have grave consequences for health, living conditions and the environment.

- It is great to see that such large groups support this lawsuit. It may appear as if support is particularly high among scientists and others with higher educations, Kvåle says.

He believes that may be due to the fact that there are more representatives of this group who have investigated and understood the consequences of climate change on several levels in their respective academic fields.

- And the fact that damages will increase and perhaps become irreversible if we do not make sure that production and consumption of both oil and gas, in addition to coal, is reduced to zero as quickly as possible, Kvåle says, arguing that there is no room for oil and gas from new sources in the Barents Sea.

- Therefore, it is irresponsible to open this area up for exploration. More than half the world’s population may be affected by serious heatwaves if production and consumption of fossile fules is not quickly and significantly reduced. Parts of densely populated areas in South Asia may be exposed to heat near fatal levels at the end of this century, the professor says.

Barents oil violates the Paris Agreement

Kvåle refers to how there is broad agreement between scientists that a reduction of production and consumption of fossile fules is absolutely necessary and urgent in order for the goals of the Paris Agreement to be met.

- In this situation, the oil industry and some politicians argue as if it is safe to continue polluting the atmosphere with large amounts of climate gases, and the government facilitates exploiting our remaining petroleum resources as quickly as possible. This contradicts Norway’s following the Paris Agreement and claiming to do its best in order to limit global temperature increase to less than two degrees, Kvåle says.

He refers to the ‘Arctic Frontiers’ conference in Tromsø, where the economist Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University remarked on this.

- Sachs said straight out that new petroleum exploration in the Arctic will lead to our violating the Paris Agreement, wasting our money and destroying the earth’s climate, the professor says.

He also refers to a new report from the International Monetary Fund.

- Rich countries that carry the main responsibility must quickly reduce emissions and contribute economically to reduce the climate damages that are inflicted on poor countries, Kvåle says.

Already major damages

Kvåle is clear that climate changes are already leading to major damages on health, living conditions and environment, and that new emissions aggravate an already serious climate situation.

- Production and use of fossile fuels must be reduced towards zero as quickly as possible. Only then can we “secure the health” and maintain “nature’s ability to produce and diversity” as is required by the Consitution’s section 112, the medical professor says.

He argues that petroleum exploration on the Norwegian continental shelf that leads to production for decades will, beyond any doubt, contribute to serious environmental and health damages that will affect people who live today as well as the generations to come.

- This activity is thus in violation of what the Constitution clearly expresses, and it also violates the Paris Agreement. When the government shows that it does not respect a clear paragraph of the Constitution, the state should be found guilty in the lawsuit brought by Greenpeace and Young Friends of the Earth, he says in closing.

 


Facts about the climate lawsuit:

  • The court hearings started last week and the plaintiffs’ main plan is to convince the Oslo District Court that the Norwegian Constitution’s section 112 can render the decisions about exploration licenses in the 23rd round of licenses invalid. This, according to the plaintiffs, because section 112 contains a limit for how much damage one can legally inflict on the environment and that this limit was exceeded through the awarding of licenses in the 23rd  round. This is the prime argument of the environmental organizations for why the license awarding is invalid.
  • Attorney General Fredrik Sejersted argues that this is pulling the Constitution too far. In his introduction, he argued that section 112 does not imply such a limit and that Parliament does not say that the Constitution can be used to e.g. prohibit exploration license rounds.
  • The State has not called any witnesses in this case.
  • The case continues before the Oslo District Court until Wendesday 22 November 2017.

Source: Energi og Klima (‘Energy and Climate’) online magazine






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