Greta Thunberg protests against wind farm built on indigenous land in Norway.
Together with dozens of other activists, the Swedish environmentalist blocked entrances to the Ministry of Energy in Oslo Monday 27 February.
Thunberga vocal advocate for ending the world’s reliance on carbon-based power, says the transition to green energy cannot come at the expense of indigenous peoples’ rights.
“Indigenous people rights, human rights, must go hand in hand with climate protection and climate measures. It cannot happen at the expense of some people. Then it’s not climate justice,” she said in an interview with the Reuters news agency.
Are the wind farms illegal?
The two wind farms in question occupy land traditionally used by indigenous Sami reindeer herders in central Norway. Their 151 turbines can operate around 100,000 Norwegian homes.
But in 2021, the country’s highest court ruled that the projects violated Sami rights under international conventions. Despite this, they remain operational more than 16 months later.
“They’ve already waited more than 500 days, I think that’s more than enough time,” argues Greta.
Promotions from Nature and Youth and Norwegian Samirers Riksforbund Nuorat joined her in blocking the entrances to the Ministry of Oil and Energy in protest.
How do the wind farms disrupt the lives of the Sami?
Reindeer herders in the Nordic region say the sight and sound of the giant wind power machinery frightens their animals and disrupts ancient traditions.
“We are here to demand that the turbines must be demolished and legally rights must be respected”, says Sami singer-songwriter, actress and activist Ella Marie Haetta Isaksen.
She and a dozen other Sami protesters had occupied the ministry’s reception area since Thursday. Police forcibly removed them around 1:30 a.m. Monday and arrested them before releasing them.
They returned to the ministry, this time outside, around 6:00 a.m.
The Sami protesters wore their traditional garb, often called gakti, inside out as a sign of protest.
In solidarity with them, Greta says: “I am here to support the fight for human rights and indigenous rights. The Norwegian state breaks human rights and that is completely unacceptable.”
Why are the wind farms still in operation?
Despite the Supreme Court ruling on the wind farms, their ultimate fate is a complex one lawful dilemma according to the Ministry of Energy, which hopes to find a compromise.
The court ruling did not say what would happen to the 151 turbines or the tens of kilometers of roads built to facilitate construction.
– We understand that this case is a burden for reindeer herders, says Energy and Oil Minister Terje Aasland in a message.
– The ministry will do what it can to help solve this case and that it will not take longer than necessary, he added.
Asked what the protesters hope to achieve, Greta says: “We want the windmills to be taken down and the land to be returned to the indigenous people there.”
Who owns the wind farms?
Owners of the farms Roan Vind and Fosen Vind include German Stadtwerke Muenchen, Norwegian utilities Statkraft and TroenderEnergi, as well as Swiss firms Energy Infrastructure Partners and BKW.
“We trust that the ministry will find good solutions that will enable us to continue the production of renewable energy while maintaining the reindeer owners’ rights, says Roan Vind in a statement.
Utility BKW said it expects the wind turbines to remain in place, with compensatory measures to ensure the rights of the Sami reindeer herders are guaranteed.
Stadtwerke Muenchen declined to comment.
Statkraft and Energy Infrastructure Partners were not immediately available for comment.