Why Greta Thunberg is in Oslo protesting against wind farms


When Swedish climate campaigner Greta Thunberg and other activists protested at several Norwegian government ministries this week, they weren’t demonstrating against new oil refineries or tax incentives for Big Oil. Instead, they were fighting wind farms, which are often seen as a tool to fight climate change.

But the two wind farms at stake are built on land in central Norway traditionally used by the Sami people to raise reindeer, a prized animal that has long provided them with food, clothing and work. While the turbines boost Norway’s green ambitions by powering thousands of homes, they do so at a cost that activists say is too high: disrupting the daily lives of the Sami and scaring the animals they rely on for survival.

On Tuesday, the Norwegian Sami Association, whose activists began occupying parts of Norway’s energy ministry last week, released a video calling for the wind turbines to be demolished. “We demand that Norway stop putting profits before the rights of indigenous people,” the group said.

Norway’s highest court ruled in 2021 that the wind farms violated the cultural rights of Sami herders, but the infrastructure, part of a $1 billion-plus project, remains in operation. The energy ministry said the legal situation surrounding the turbines is complicated, Reuters reported. A mayor in central Norway told public broadcaster NRK that the wind farms would provide jobs and renewable energy and that he hoped a deal could be reached.

The Sami number between 50,000 and 100,000, according to the International Working Group on Indigenous Affairs, with 65,000 of them in Norway. The United Nations has documented how Nordic countries have long suppressed their language and customs, although more recent Norwegian governments have moved to protect their culture, experts say.

As countries struggle to reduce carbon emissions, the fight over wind turbines highlights the difficulties facing those whose land, resources and cultural life will be involved in climate solutions. The plight of the Sami is being echoed by villagers in southern Thailand who watched as a new biomass plant cut off their water supply, according to reports. Activists in Mexico who reported violations of indigenous rights also succeeded in stopping the construction of one of Latin America’s largest wind farms on indigenous land in Oaxaca.

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Indigenous rights must “go hand in hand” with climate action, Thunberg told Reuters in Norway. The action “cannot be done at the expense of some people. Then it’s not climate justice.”

The number of complaints of abuse of rights related to renewable energy projects has increased in recent years, according to a 2022 report by the UK-based Center for Business and Human Rights, which said the most serious and frequent allegations were linked to non-respect of indigenous land rights.

Norwegian wind farms consist of 151 wind turbines, which were commissioned in 2019 and 2020. The Independent Climate Action Tracker rates Norway’s climate efforts as “nearly adequate”, adding that Oslo’s policies “are not yet consistent » with what is needed to cover Earth warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. Wind power, which produced about 8.5 percent of the country’s electricity in 2020, is seen as a key asset.

Norway’s energy ministry said last week that freedom of speech was a fundamental right and that its security personnel were assessing the protesters’ actions. Police then forcibly removed the protesters early Monday morning, according to an Instagram post shared by Thunberg. The protesters were back in front of the government building a few hours later. The ministry did not respond to a request for comment early Wednesday.

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