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Environmental Court Cases: Earthlife Africa

Natural Justice have developed a series of summaries of significant court cases from across the world related to climate change and rights of nature. These are designed for the public, policy makers and practitioners and provide a snapshot of cases that are being brought to courts in order to advance the protection and rights of nature, including seeking ways to hold governments accountable for their international commitments to reducing carbon emissions.

Earthlife Africa Johannesburg v Minister of Environmental Affairs and others

This is the first climate change court case in South Africa.The Chief Director granted environmental authorisation in terms of the National Environmental Management Act, 107 of 1998, to build a 1200MW coal-fired power station (Thabametsi) near Lephalale in the Limpopo Province, without the benefit of a climate impact assessment to inform his decision. The application raises concerns about the environmental impacts of that decision. Earthlife lodged an administrative appeal to the Minister of Environmental Affairs against the decision to grant environmental authorisation. However, the Minister upheld the decision to grant the authorisation, but directed that the power company undertake a climate impact assessment prior to the commencement of the project. The court set aside the appeal decision of the Minister and remitted the matter back to the Minister for reconsideration of the appeal. The Minister was directed to consider a climate change impact assessment report, a paleontological impact assessment report, comments on the reports from interested and affected parties, and any relevant additional information.

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