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South Africa

Africa Climate Alliance et. al., v. Minister of Mineral Resources & Energy et. al. (#CancelCoal case)

Jurisdiction: High Court of South Africa

Side A: Africa Climate Alliance et. al. (Ngo)

Side B: Minister of Mineral Resources & Energy et. al. (Government)

Core objectives: Whether the government’s decision to procure new coal-fired power is unconstitutional.

On November 10, 2021, three civil society organizations, the African Climate Alliance (ACA), Vukani Environmental Justice Movement in Action (VEM) and groundWork (gW) launched a youth-led constitutional challenge against South Africa’s Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy and the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) concerning the government’s plans to procure 1500 MW of new coal-fired power electricity capacity (#CancelCoal case). According to plaintiffs, the procurement of 1500 MW of new coal-fired power represents a severe threat to the constitutional rights of the people of South Africa, especially their environmental rights, the best interests of the child, the rights to life, dignity and equality, among others.

The case specifically questions the Minister’s determination for 1500 MW of new coal, the concurrence of the NERSA supporting the Minister’s determination, and the 2019 Integrated Resource Plan (2019). On September 17, 2021, the organizations sent a letter to the government demanding that it abandon its plan to procure new coal-fired power. The case was brought after the government failed to respond to their demands. The plaintiffs rely on the findings of the IPCC on the urgent need to cut greenhouse gas emissions, as well as a series of in-depth expert analyses of the consequences of new coal-fired power specific to South Africa, including air pollution, water pollution, and land pollution.

The plaintiffs note that South Africa is one of the world’s 15 most significant contributors to GHG emissions, due substantially to the reliance on coal for energy generation, and argue that renewable energy as an alternative to coal represents an environmental and human-health imperative, as well as a viable economic solution to the need to increase the available energy in South Africa.

NERSA and the Minister of Energy have until 6 and 7 December 2021, respectively, to file the record of all documents and information related to the impugned decisions (known as the Rule 53 record), together with their reasons behind these decisions. The applicants will then have an opportunity to amend and/or supplement their court application. Subsequently, the Minister and NERSA will have to notify the applicants if they intend to oppose the relief sought in the application.

On December 8, 2021, the first respondent, the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, gave notice that he will oppose the application. The plaintiffs have agreed to grant the first respondent an extension to January 20, 2022, to file the record of decision and reasons. After that, the plaintiffs will have an opportunity to supplement their papers. The President has given notice that he will not oppose the case, and will abide by the decision of the court.

Case documents

from the Grantham Research Institute
from the Grantham Research Institute
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