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Centre for Environmental Rights – Advancing Environmental Rights in South Africa

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Pollution & Climate Change

groundWork’s challenge to the Minister’s unlawful amendments to the new SO2 emission standards

A key aim of the Life After Coal campaign is to reduce polluting emissions from existing coal infrastructure and encourage a coal-phase out. An essential part of this campaign is to highlight the way in which the pollution from coal and other industries is affecting the health of ordinary people, particularly those living in Mpumalanga and Gauteng.

SO2 Challenge 

The CER, on behalf, of environmental justice organisation groundWork has launched High Court proceedings against the Environmental Affairs Minister and the President of South Africa, asking the Court to set aside the Minister’s attempts to double (make twice as weak) South Africa’s 2020 emission standards for the harmful pollutant sulphur dioxide (SO2) for coal-fired boilers.

This affects all 15 of Eskom’s coal fired power stations, Sasol’s 17 coal boilers and other coal facilities such as those at Mondi and SAPPI – an estimated 25 facilities in the country. The Minister made this change to the emission standards without publishing the proposed draft change for public comment, as the Air Quality requires.

Court documents

Key Information

  • LAC submissions opposing the proposed doubling of the 2020 SO2 MES  
    • Annexure 1 – CER submissions of 25 June 2018
    • Annexure 2 – CER letter to DEA re SO2 Panel (5 March 2018)
    • Annexure 3  – Lauri Myllyvirta “Air quality and health impacts of doubling the South African standards for SO2 emissions from power plants” (3 July 2019)
    • Annexure 4 – Dr Ron Sahu “Comments on the Proposed Increase in the Minimum Emission Standard (MES) for Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) Applicable to Coal Fired Power Plant Stacks in South Africa”(July 2019)

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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.

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