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Climate lawsuit against Norway's Arctic drilling starts in court

"It would stop all future oil licenses awarded off Norway and would imperil hundreds of thousands of jobs", he said, adding that the case is based on an expansive and political interpretation of the constitution's article 112.

"This is a type of constitutional activism we have not seen before and that is different from our legal tradition in Norway", Attorney General Fredrik Sejersted, representing the state, told the court in his opening statement.

The organisations claim their lawsuit was the first to be filed against a state for violating the agreements signed at the COP21 climate change conference in Paris in December 2015, which came into force in November past year.

Environmentalist organizations took the Norwegian government to court over the awarding of oil drilling licenses in the Arctic, and argued on the first day of hearings on Tuesday that the 2015 licenses should be withdrawn as they violate Norway's constitution and the country's pledge to fulfill the terms of the Paris Climate Agreement.

They claimed that this is the first case that challenges new oil and gas drillings on the basis of the Paris agreement, and it is also the first time that Article 112 of the Norwegian Constitution will be tested in court, hoping that the lawsuit "could set an worldwide precedent".

Norway's oil revenues are dwindling, with crude oil production now half what it was in 2001.

The license recipients included Norway's state-owned Statoil, the U.S. giants Chevron and ConocoPhillips, Germany's DEA, Russia's Lukoil, Sweden's Lundin, Japan's Idemitsu and OMV of Austria.

The NGOs are now calling for the concessions to be cancelled because of the environmental risks. Ole Berthelsen, spokesman for Norway's Petroleum Minister, has said that the validity of the licenses could not be "attacked on this basis", referring to the unconstitutional claim.

Three of the license zones are close to Norway's largely non-prospected maritime border with Russian Federation. It aims to end sales of new cars equipped with only combustion engines by 2025.

Its decades of oil extraction has enabled it to build up a sovereign fund worth around $1 trillion (858 billion euros).

Of the blocs the oil and energy ministry put on offer, 93 are located in the Barents Sea and nine others in the Norwegian Sea, also above the Arctic circle.

The Paris agreement seeks to limit average global warming caused by greenhouse gases from fossil-fuel burning to under 2C (3.6F) over pre-industrial levels, and to 1.5C if possible.

The Barents Sea lies north of Norway and its harbors are sometimes ice-free because of warmer Gulf Stream waters from the North Atlantic.

The case is being watched closely around the world.

University of Oslo law professor Ole Kristian Fauchald told Norwegian NRK public broadcasting the case was being watched from overseas. "So there's a lot at stake".

"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 of a case likely to last two weeks.



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