Skip to Content

Centre for Environmental Rights - Advancing Environmental Rights in South Africa

Support Us Join our Mailing List

Media

News

Records show Minister’s failure to interrogate devastating impacts of proposed coal plant

21 May 2019 at 9:10 am

Community activists from Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, including activists from Lephalale in Limpopo, demonstrate outside the Pretoria High Court at the start of SA’s first climate change litigation on Thursday, 2 March 2017. Picture: James Oatway for CER
Community activists from Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, including activists from Lephalale in Limpopo, demonstrate outside the Pretoria High Court at the start of SA’s first climate change litigation on Thursday, 2 March 2017. Picture: James Oatway for CER

New records filed in court by the Department of Environmental Affairs show that the Minister of Environmental Affairs did not properly consider the unacceptably high climate impacts of the proposed Thabametsi coal-fired power station, which was first authorised in February 2015.

These records were filed as part of environmental justice groups Earthlife Africa and groundWork’s court challenge instituted in March last year to set aside the Minister of Environmental Affairs’ decision to authorise the emission-intensive Thabametsi coal-fired power station in Limpopo. The Minister authorised the plant irrespective of the evidence of the project’s very high climate change impacts, which the Minister had been ordered (in a previous successful court challenge by Earthlife Africa) in March 2017  to consider. Earthlife Africa and groundWork now have filed supplementary papers, setting out the Minister’s failures.

Thabametsi, if it proceeds, would be one of the most emission-intensive coal-fired power stations in the world, and would cost South Africa R12.57 billion in comparison to a least-cost electricity system.

The long-awaited records, which DEA made available in April 2019, following extensive delays, show that, the Minister – in relying exclusively on an outdated electricity plan (the Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity 2010) to justify the power station – made her decision with no regard to facts and science which show that: new coal capacity is not needed; the electricity capacity from Thabametsi would substantially raise electricity costs; and, in recognising the urgent need to reduce South Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions, South Africa simply cannot be building new coal-fired power stations.

These records also show that little regard was given by the Minister to recommendations by independent experts that certain aspects of the climate change impact assessment for Thabametsi, such as the social costs of the project’s emissions, or the water scarcity impacts on communities, be interrogated further.

The Minister, Departmental officials and Thabametsi – who are all cited as respondents in the litigation – have yet to oppose this High Court application to have the authorisation set aside. They will now have an opportunity to consider this affidavit and to then oppose and file answering papers, should they wish to contest the application.

END

groundWork, Earthlife Africa and the CER form part of the Life After Coal/Impilo Ngaphandle Kwamalahle campaign. This is a joint campaign which aims to: discourage the development of new coal-fired power stations and mines; reduce emissions from existing coal infrastructure and encourage a coal phase-out; and enable a just transition to sustainable energy systems for the people.

For media queries, contact:

Contact Us

  • Cape Town

    Second Floor, Springtime Studios, 1 Scott Road, Observatory, 7925 - View Map
  • Johannesburg

    Ninth Floor, Southpoint Corner, 87 De Korte Street, Braamfontein, 2001 - View Map

Section 24of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996

Everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being; and to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that prevent pollution and ecological degradation; promote conservation; and secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development.

Report a Violation

0800 205 005

Contact the National Environmental Crimes & Incidents Hotline (24 hours) or one of the national and provincial hotlines.