Environmental and climate justice groups have called on Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe and regulatory authority the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) to abandon plans to develop 1 500 MW of new coal-fired electricity.
“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,” the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) and lawyers for environmental and climate justice groups the African Climate Alliance (ACA), the Vukani Environmental Justice Movement in Action and groundWork, said in a letter of demand.
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 the 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 would not make 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 ACA advocacy and action co-ordinator Sarah Robyn Farrell.
CER pollution and climate change head Nicole Loser indicates 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,” she says.
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 September 24.
The Minister and Nersa have been given until October 8 to respond to the letter.