SA to hear first climate change lawsuit next week
What has been described as South Africa's first climate change lawsuit is set to be heard next Thursday in the Pretoria High Court.
Earthlife Africa is asking the court to revoke the environmental impact assessment for the proposed privately-run Thabametsi power station.
The coal-powered station is to be run by independent power producers who will sell electricity to Eskom. The environmental assessment is one of the documents needed before the station can start operating.
NGO Earthlife is unhappy that the Minister of Environmental Affairs and the Director General of Environmental Authorisation granted the coal-fired station environmental authorisation to start but failed to take into account how it would affect climate change. Earthlife Africa's court papers say: "The Thabametsi power station is likely to contribute significant carbon dioxide emissions although the precise amount is not yet known."
The NGO argues that CO2 emissions affect climate change and that this should have been considered by the environmental affairs minister. The NGO argues that climate change presents a serious threat to section 24 of the Constitution‚ which allows the environment to be protected for future generations.
Attorney for the Centre for Environmental Rights Nicole Loser said that if Earthlife wins the court case‚ the minister of environmental affairs will have to reassess how the new power station will impact the environment and take into account the effect emissions will have on climate change.
Earthlife is an NGO known for its views against the use of coal to generate electricity.
In court documents‚ Thabametsi power company argues that Earthlife may be using this litigation to stop the building of coal power stations in South Africa. It says "if Earthlife’s aim in this litigation is to prevent the establishment of coal-fired power stations ....then it involves an abuse of process".
Thabametsi says it has been granted the right to operate as part of government's plan to use independent power producers for coal-based electricity. It says Earthlife should have taken the Department of Energy's independent power producers procurement programme to create private coal stations for the country to court rather than take the producers to court.
Thabametsi power company has run up R210-million costs in bidding and planning for the power station and is not happy about the court case.
It says it has conducted a water impact assessment and the impact of it on air quality and that a climate change assessment is not needed.