August 14, 2020 Read More →

South African water ruling could stall plans for future coal-fired power plants

Climate Home News:

South Africa is tightening environmental demands for new coal-fired power plants, after what campaigners called a ‘landmark’ ruling that licenses for water use should consider the risks of climate change.

The nation’s Water Tribunal in Pretoria upheld an appeal by environmental campaigners to scrap two water use licenses granted in 2017 by the Department of Water Affairs and Sanitation to Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power for the development of the 600MW capacity Khanyisa coal-fired power station.

groundWork, the environmental justice group which made the successful appeal, this week hailed the little-noticed 21 July ruling as a landmark in the fight against coal and global warming. “The landmark aspect is that for the first time climate change is specifically confirmed to be a ‘relevant factor’ to be taken into account when considering a water use license application,” Michelle Koyama, attorney at the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), which acted on behalf of groundWork, told Climate Home News on Thursday.

The tribunal’s ruling means ACWA will have to re-submit applications for water use, requiring new rounds of public and expert consultation, likely to take months, in a new blow to the project. ACWA and the South African government did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

Environmental activists in South Africa have taken legal action to try to stop Khanyisa and another coal-fired project, Thabametsi. They are also lobbying banks, investors and developers to shun coal projects, saying they are at odds with South Africa’s commitments under the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

The Water Tribunal’s final decision focused on procedural lapses by ACWA and the government in granting licenses, but its 54-page document stressed the need to consider climate change.

[Alister Doyle]

More: South Africa tightens restrictions for new coal power in ‘landmark’ ruling

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