Most of Norway's oil is burned elsewhere, but a court ruled the country must still count those emissions as its ownMost of the oil produced in Norway is burned elsewhere, but a court ruled the country must count the emissions created when it is burned as its own. Photo credit: Carina Johansen/AFP via Getty Images

By Dana Drugmand

While an appeals court in Norway has ruled that the government should be accountable for all the emissions from oil drilled in Norwegian territory, it refused to invalidate the drilling leases that were challenged in a lawsuit by two environmental groups. 

Those groups, Greenpeace Norway and Nature and Youth, however, called the ruling “a huge step forward” for affirming the right to a healthy environment under the Norwegian constitution. 

“This is a big step closer to guaranteeing our future and sending a message that we can’t afford to drill for new oil. The Norwegian Court of Appeal is standing behind the constitutional right to a healthy environment, and finding that the Norwegian government could be responsible for emissions made by Norwegian oil burned abroad,” said Therese Woie, leader of Nature & Youth.

The lawsuit challenges the awarding of 10 drilling licenses in 2016, arguing that continued production of fossil fuels contradicts Norway’s commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement and violates the Norwegian constitution’s guarantee to the right to a healthy and sustainable environment. The district court acknowledged this right but ruled that the awarding of licenses did not breach that right. The groups appealed that ruling, and in November the Court of Appeals in Oslo held a full retrial. 

The appeals court ruling affirmed the district court finding and the plaintiffs say they plan to appeal to the country’s Supreme Court. 

“It is clear that this necessitates further review by the judiciary,” said Frode Pleym, head of Greenpeace Norway. 

During the appeals court proceedings in November, the Norwegian government argued that it is not responsible for the emissions from oil it exports. A government attorney called the lawsuit an “attack on Norway’s most important industry.” Norway is the world’s seventh-largest exporter of petroleum. 

The appeals court, however, noted in its decision that emissions from oil exports must be considered. 

“We are happy the Norwegian Court of Appeals acknowledges current and future generations’ right to a healthy environment and that right also includes the duty to take into account the full emissions from the burning of Norwegian oil, wherever that takes place,” Pleym said

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