Greta Thunberg, a Swedish climate activist, has joined Indigenous and environmental groups in Norway this week to oppose wind turbines, which may seem odd.
In protest of two windfarms constructed on Sámi reindeer grazing grounds, dozens of protesters, including Thunberg, have blocked access to Norwegian government buildings in Oslo.
A spokesperson for the Oslo police district said that on Wednesday morning, 10 people, including Thunberg, were taken away by police from the ministry of finance entrance.
The Sámi people, the only recognized Indigenous group in the European Union, claim that the windfarms in the Fosen region in Central Norway threaten their centuries-old tradition of reindeer herding. They are composed of 151 wind turbines that reach a height of 285 feet, making them one of Europe’s largest onshore windfarms.
Maja Kristine Jma, a reindeer herder and Sámi politician, stated to CNN that the constructions were “stealing the reindeer’s grazing land.” She stated that the roads and other infrastructure surrounding the turbines have an impact on the reindeer as well. It greatly disturbs them.
Jma and other people are calling for the reindeer grazing lands to be restored and the turbines to be taken down.
“Climate protection and climate action must go hand in hand with indigenous rights, human rights. That can’t happen at some people’s expense, Thunberg told Reuters on Monday.
The battle over the wind turbines has been going on for a long time.
The Sámi people won a legal victory in October 2021. Because the turbines infringed on the reindeer grazing lands of the Sámi people, the Norwegian Supreme Court ruled that the wind farm permits were invalid.
However, nearly a year and a half later, the turbines continue to function.
On Tuesday, Political Advisor to the Sámi Parliament in Norway, Eirik Larsen, told CNN that “the government has not even acknowledged the Supreme Court’s ruling on the violation of human rights or offered an apology to the Reindeer Sámi.”
That changed on Thursday when Petroleum and Energy Minister Terje Aasland apologized after meeting with Sámi representatives during the ongoing protest.
According to Aasland’s statement, “I apologized on behalf of the government to the reindeer herding districts in Fosen that the concession decision involves a violation of human rights” during these conversations.
Aasland stated on Thursday, “The government’s message is clear and concise; we must follow up on the Supreme Court decision so that the rights of the reindeer herding Sámi in Fosen are protected.” They have been in a challenging and ambiguous situation for a considerable amount of time. I apologize for that.
The Norwegian government said it was looking into how to protect the rights of the Sámi in Fosen. According to Elisabeth Sther, State Secretary in the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum, who spoke with CNN, “The Supreme Court has considered that the permits that have been granted are invalid, but it does not follow from the judgment that the wind turbines must be taken down.”
In his apology, Aasland echoed Sther’s claim that the government has been working with reindeer herders and the Sámi Parliament to find solutions “that make it possible for reindeer herding and the wind turbines to operate side by side.”
When it comes to the green transition, what is going on in Norway is just one part of a larger problem: How to put climate policies into action without violating the rights of Indigenous people and the environment.
A crucial component of Norway’s green energy transition is wind energy. The country already generates almost all of its electricity from renewable sources. Hydropower will account for more than 90% of the country’s electricity in 2020, while wind power, which has increased tenfold in the past decade, will account for 6.5 percent.
Norway, which continues to be a major producer of oil and gas, has committed to lowering its pollution levels from 1990 by 55% by 2030.
Jma responded, “But you cannot have a green shift that violates Indigenous rights or human rights.” These structures pose a threat to our culture as reindeer herders and our way of life.
The Norwegian government stated to CNN that Jma’s use of the term “green colonization” was “misleading and incorrect.”
The Environmental Justice Foundation’s CEO and founder, Steve Trent, stated to CNN: The Sámi did not cause the climate crisis, and efforts to resolve it should not jeopardize their traditional ways of life, which they have followed for millennia.”
He added, “Our efforts to reduce global warming must be equitable and fair.”
The Sapmi lands of the Sámi people, whose traditional homelands span northern Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Russia, are already at the forefront of the climate crisis.
The Arctic is warming at a rate up to four times faster than the rest of the world. As a result, reindeer have a harder time getting food because layers of ice are freezing over their food as a result of the increased rainfall.
Larsen stated, “In order to save the world from a crisis primarily caused by others, Indigenous Peoples are asked to give up their lands for the wind industry, mining, and other purposes.”