A letter of demand from environmental and climate justice groups calls on Minister Mantashe and NERSA to abandon plans to develop 1 500 MW of new coal-fired electricity or face legal action.
The development of new coal-fired power is neither rational nor lawful, given the well-documented environmental, social, human health and economic impacts of new coal-powered electricity generation in South Africa. As such, government’s current plans to build new coal-fired power are an unjustified violation of constitutional rights and should be revoked.
This is the message of the letter of demand sent to Minister Mantashe on 17 September 2021 by the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) as lawyers for environmental and climate justice groups the African Climate Alliance (ACA), the Vukani Environmental Justice Movement in Action (VEM) and groundWork (GW).
The letter highlights global scientific consensus on coal and climate change, citing the recently published Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on the physical science basis of climate change that confirms that the state of our climate is even more precarious than previously thought, and that greenhouse gas emissions must be urgently and steeply reduced to avoid dangerous global warming.
The letter also refers to the expert findings of two locally-focused expert reports. The first details the unnecessary cost of new coal-fired electricity generation, and the second demonstrates that, since no coal-fired power can be considered clean, regardless of the type of technology that is used, building new coal power in circumstances where there are cleaner, cheaper and feasible alternatives, would result in unacceptable harms and simply makes no sense.
“New coal-fired power will not only exacerbate climate change harms, add to global warming and cause air and water pollution, it will also burden South Africa with unnecessarily expensive electricity and cause long-term negative effects for human health,” explains Sarah Robyn Farrell, advocacy and action co-ordinator at the ACA.
Nicole Loser, Programme Head: Pollution and Climate Change at CER, points out that government’s plans for new coal-fired electricity also directly contradict Section 24 of the Constitution.
“New coal-fired power flies in the face of our Constitutional right to an environment not harmful to health and wellbeing, not only for the present generation, but for future generations too. This is especially so because government has alternative solutions at its disposal – alternative solutions which would not pose this threat to human rights.”
Activists from ACA will be handing over the letter of demand in person as part of the global climate strike at the South African Parliament on 24 September 2021.
The Minister and NERSA have been given until 8 October 2021 to respond to the letter.
The Centre for Environmental Rights is a non-profit organisation and law clinic based in Cape Town, South Africa. As a group of activist lawyers, the CER helps communities and civil society organisations in South Africa to realise our Constitutional right to a healthy environment by advocating and litigating for environmental justice.
The African Climate Alliance is a youth-led group advocating for climate, ecological and social justice.
The Vukani Environmental Justice Movement in Action, established in 2016 and based in Emalahleni, in Mpumalanga in the Highveld region is a non-profit organisation focused on environmental justice issues, including air pollution, climate change and energy, water and sanitation, waste and food gardens.
groundWork is a non-profit environmental justice service and developmental organization working primarily in Southern Africa in the areas of Climate & Energy Justice, Coal, Environmental Health, Global Green and Healthy Hospitals, and Waste.