November 14, 2017 / 10:10 AM / a year ago

Norway should cancel 2015 Arctic oil licenses, court told

OSLO, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Norway's plans for Arctic oil exploration are unconstitutional and should be stopped, an Oslo court was told on Tuesday.

The case, brought by Greenpeace and the Nature and Youth group, argues that a 2015 oil licensing round in the Arctic violates the Norwegian Constitution because Oslo has agreed to the Paris accord's goals to end the fossil fuel era this century.

It is part of an emerging branch of law worldwide where plaintiffs are trying to enlist a nation's founding principles to limit global warming.

"We argue that these licenses are not allowed under the law as per the Constitution," Cathrine Hambro, representing the plaintiffs , told the court in her opening argument.

"We ask the court to make a quality check of these decisions, which have large and irreversible consequences."

Campaigners, some dressed in traditional Norwegian costumes and making the victory signs with their hands, packed courtroom 250, the largest at Oslo district court.

Outside, as the first snow fell over the city, Greenpeace campaigners had placed a five-tonne sculpted block of ice, engraved with the article of the Norwegian Constitution under which they are challenging the state in court.

"Our goal is that the court agrees with us that licenses awarded in the Barents Sea are invalid and should be withdrawn because it violates future generations' right to a healthy environment," Truls Gulowsen, head of Greenpeace Norway, told Reuters.

Some legal scholars say it is a stretch to invoke the Constitution rather than focus on taxes and regulations to control greenhouse gases.

Norway's attorney general, representing the state, will argue that the oil licences, awarded to Statoil, Chevron, Lukoil, ConocoPhillips and others, have no link to the Constitution. Norway's environmental laws are among the toughest in the world.

The plaintiffs' case is based on "a distinctly broad, political, and expanded interpretation of the Constitution's article 112," the Attorney General's office said in court documents.

The case is happening at the same time as nations are gathered in Bonn, Germany, to agree on a "rule book" for the 2015 climate pact, which seeks to end the fossil fuel era this century with a shift to wind, solar and other clean energies. (Reporting by Gwaldys Fouche Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

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