Victory for Communities & the Climate in South Africa

Community members protest in front of Pretoria High Court. PHOTO: James Oatway, CER

ELAW partners at the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) share great news:
“Major climate impacts and exorbitant costs have sounded the death knell for a new proposed coal-fired power station in South Africa.”
A green light for the proposed Thabametsi plant in Limpopo province would have made it one of the most greenhouse gas emission-intensive coal-fired power stations in the world.
In 2016 and 2017, CER worked with Earthlife Africa to challenge the project’s environmental authorization in court. They succeeded in having the decision referred back for consideration of the project’s climate impacts – a victory hailed as South Africa’s first climate change case.
Despite the significant climate impacts, the project was re-authorized and the parties went back to court to in 2018 to challenge Thabametsi’s authorization. This month, Earthlife Africa and groundWork secured agreement from Thabametsi and the state to cancel the environmental authorization.
Meanwhile, Korean Electric Power Company and Japanese Marubeni — the two major shareholders in the project – have withdrawn and major development finance institutions have reportedly advised that they will not be supporting the project.
“ELAW has collaborated with CER for years to help win this big victory,” says CER attorney Nicole Loser.
ELAW Staff Scientist Dr. Mark Chernaik provided CER with a critical review of the power company’s Climate Impact Assessment. Mark’s review included an estimate that the power plant’s expected CO2 emissions would cause more than $480 million per year in climate damages. Mark also provided a critique of the power company’s draft Atmospheric Emissions License, and material to rebut the power company’s defense of the Ministry’s grant of environmental authorization that has now been set aside.
“Coal kills people and is the largest source of CO2 emissions,” says Mark. “We simply cannot continue burning coal if we hope to protect the climate.”
Congratulations CER, Earthlife Africa, and groundWork for this thrilling victory protecting communities and the climate!
For more information, see:
CER News: Major climate impacts scupper another coal power plant
ELAW Celebrating Victories: South Africa, Keep Coal in the Ground


Maggie Keenan
Communications Director
Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide