Judgment reserved in South Africa’s first climate change court case


The outcome of South Africa’s first climate change court case could set an important precedent.

Judgment has been reserved, following compelling arguments in the Pretoria High Court by lawyers for Earthlife Africa, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and the developers of the 557.3 MW Thabametsi coal-fired power station, in Limpopo.

Earthlife Africa, represented by the Centre for Environmental Rights, argued that the DEA had granted the Thabametsi power station an environmental authorisation without adequate information about its potential climate change impacts.

But lawyers for the DEA have argued that, while climate change is a relevant factor to consider, the regulatory regime does not currently require a climate change impact assessment as a prerequisite for granting an environmental authorisation.

Earthlife Africa is hoping that the environmental authorisation for Thabametsi will be set aside and referred back to the DEA.

“The DEA would then need to consider the full and final climate change impact assessment, along with public comment, before making a decision on whether to re-issue the authorisation.”

But Thabametsi’s legal team say Earthlife’s challenge to the outcome of the internal appeal is “based on a fundamental misreading of the Minister’s decision”.

“Properly understood, that decision accepted that climate change had been adequately considered for the purposes of the environmental authorisation, but called for a climate change impact assessment to be undertaken for future use.”

The DEA said the decision to grant the environmental authorisation to Thabametsi in the absence of a climate change impact assessment was compatible with South Africa’s domestic policies, guidelines and regulations.

The Integrated Resource Plan 2010 developed by the Department of Energy, envisages that coal-fired power will continue to contribute a sizeable portion of South Africa’s energy supply.

SOURCE : Creamer Media