On Thursday, the Norwegian government apologized to Indigenous Sami people for the placement of wind turbines on reindeer pastures, calling it a “human rights infringement,” while also proposing a solution that allows power production in the area.
Terje Aasland, Minister of Petroleum and Energy, apologized after a week of protests by Sami activists and others, including environmental activist Greta Thunberg, that exacerbated the government’s predicament.
“I have apologised (today) on behalf of the government to the reindeer herding districts for the fact that the permits (to build wind farms) constituted a violation of human rights,” Aasland told a news conference.
The Supreme Court of Norway declared in 2021 that the turbines built on two wind farms in Fosen, central Norway, infringed Sami rights under international conventions, yet they are still operational nearly 17 months later.
The court made no decision about what should happen to the 151 turbines, which can power 100,000 Norwegian households, or the dozens of kilometers of roads erected to enable the construction.
Throughout the last week, Sami protestors have blocked the entrance to the oil ministry and other government buildings in Oslo, demanding the removal of the turbines and claiming that the move to green energy should not come at the expense of Indigenous rights.
Thunberg was seized by Norwegian police on Wednesday during a protest.
Aasland stated that the government had not ruled out any options, but that he still believed it was possible to maintain both electricity generation and reindeer farming at Fosen.
“I’ve said my goal is to find solutions that enable the Fosen wind power and reindeer husbandry to coexist, and that’s a task I still believe we can succeed with,” he said.
His statement followed a meeting with the president of Norway’s consultative Sami parliament, Silje Karine Muotka, who had demanded an apology.
“My goal remains to bring to an end the human rights violation and for the damage to be repaired,” Muotka told reporters.
She refused to clarify whether she thought this would necessitate the elimination of all turbines and roads.
The owners of the Roan Vind and Fosen Vind farms, which include Norwegian utilities Statkraft and TroenderEnergi, as well as Swiss businesses Energy Infrastructure Partners and BKW, have expressed hope for a solution.