In an early victory for #CancelCoal applicants, yesterday the Pretoria High Court ordered the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy to release records relating to the decision to include new coal power in the 2019 Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity (IRP), and to the 2020 Ministerial determination for new coal issued under the IRP.
The court has ordered the Minister to release the documents in question and ordered government to pay costs, clearing the way for the main #CancelCoal case to proceed.
The applicants in the case, the African Climate Alliance (ACA), the Vukani Environmental Justice Movement in Action (VEM) and groundWork (gW), represented by the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), brought the application to compel disclosure of the records in the Pretoria High Court on 16 November 2022. They brought this application after the Minister refused to make these documents available, as he is required to do under court rules.
The requested records include the modelling and cost assumptions that informed the plans for 1500 MW of new coal, as well as the details of the coal power technologies considered.
In addition to coal power causing pollution and exacerbating climate change, it is now far cheaper and speedier for Eskom to buy electricity generated from renewable energy sources like wind and solar than it is to buy electricity from any proposed new coal power station.
The court made the following order:
- The Minister must release the documents in question by close of business on 28 February 2023.
- Should the Minister fail to do this, the applicants may return to court at which time they may also seek to strike out government’s opposition to the main case – in other words, the applicants will be entitled to proceed with the case against the Minister, without his opposition.
- Government must pay the applicants’ costs for the application.
The court held that “the documents sought by the applicants may well shed light on the reviewability of the IRP 2019,” and “also be relevant to those decisions which are sought to be set aside,” – in other words, the decisions to include new coal in the 2019 IRP and to issue a determination for new coal in 2020.
“We are delighted with this outcome. We need these records in order to shed light on the decisions made by the Minister to call for new coal power – a decision which affects us all,” says Ronald Mhlakaza of the Vukani Environmental Justice Movement in Action (VEM).
“The fact that the court provided clarity and compelled government to release information sends a strong message that the youth of South Africa’s right to transparency and information that affects their future is essential,” says Sibusiso Mazomba, African Climate Alliance #CancelCoal Campaigner.
“This is a victory for our call for an open democracy. Governance decisions, and the reasons for these decisions, must be in the public domain so those in power can be accountable for their decisions to all of us in South Africa,” says Thomas Mnguni, groundWork’s Campaigner on the Mpumalanga Highveld.
“As soon as we receive the records from the Minister, we will be in a position to consider and determine what informed the Minister’s decision to develop new coal power. The applicants will then have an opportunity to supplement their court papers in the Constitutional challenge and review of the plans to develop new coal power,” says Michelle Sithole, attorney at the Centre for Environmental Rights, which represents the applicants in the litigation.
Read more about the hearing: Applicants head to court in landmark youth-led #CancelCoal climate case
Read more about the #CancelCoal case: Youth-led #CancelCoal climate case launched against government’s plans for new coal-fired power