Norway is seen as a leader on the environment, especially ocean sustainability. But the country’s ocean dumping problem is undermining efforts to stop the degradation of marine ecosystems and stave off the worst effects of climate change.
Prime Minister Erna Solberg is a big player in global ocean conservation. She’s the patron for a UN-backed initiative on ocean sustainability and climate change and leads the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, an effort backed by 14 heads of state representing 40% of the world’s coastlines. She launched the High Level Panel by stating, “To build a sustainable ocean economy, we must stop the degradation of the world’s marine ecosystems and improve the environmental status of the oceans. This will require action from all of us.”
We couldn’t agree more. But, unfortunately, the Prime Minister’s actions–the greenlighting of two mines that will dump toxic waste into National Salmon Fjords–directly contradicts her high-profile commitments. Communities, fisherfolk, tourism operators and environmental activists have been fighting the projects for years.
In 2018, the Norwegian government issued a four-year moratorium on new permits for ocean dumping. But the measure grandfathered in these two controversial projects, which were already in the pipeline.
A year later the government granted Nussir the final permits to begin operations at one of the sites, turning down a slew of appeals by local fishermen, Sami people and environmental groups. The government has forged ahead despite not securing the free, prior and informed consent of the Sami people. In response, thousands of youth throughout the country pledged to use peaceful, direct action to block construction of the mine and the dumping of toxic mine waste into Repparfjord. This summer, they made good on that promise and set up camp outside Nussir’s project.
This isn’t the first time direct action has been used to try to protect fjords from mine waste. In 2016, activists from Young Friends of the Earth locked themselves to mining equipment for three weeks at the site of Nordic Mining’s Engebo project, the second controversial mine. Now, despite numerous legal challenges and widespread local opposition, Nordic is dangerously close to having all the necessary permits to dump 250 million tonnes of mine waste into the pristine Fordefjord.
Fjords, and the marine life within them, are an integral part of who and what Norway is. Prime Minister Solberg said it herself: “The ocean is central to Norway’s history and culture, economy and diet. We need it to weather existential threats — from the COVID-19 crisis to climate change. As the country’s prime minister, it is my job to ensure that our relationship with it is sustainable: protection, production and prosperity go hand in hand.”
We must demand Prime Minister Solberg match her words with actions. Support our allies in Norway this summer by sending an email to the Prime Minister to demand she be a real leader on ocean protection, stop the Nussir and Nordic Mining projects, and ban all ocean dumping in Norway.