On December 14, 2021, the administrative lawsuit filed against the Japanese government by 12 residents of the surrounding area of the two Kobe coal-fired power plants (totaling 1,300MW) under construction at the Kobe Steel site concluded. The residents have demanded the government revoke the notice of finalization of the plan, holding the government responsible for approving the construction of the plants despite illegalities in the environmental assessment procedures.
On the final day of proceedings, the plaintiffs’ lawyers gave a summary of the results of COP26, noting that the next 10 years will be critical to reach the widely-shared 1.5℃ target of the Glasgow Climate Pact. They also pointed out the peculiarity of the fact that, amongst a global trend toward decarbonization, Japan is the only developed country still constructing new coal-fired power plants, and considering coal’s impact on climate change, it is not acceptable for Japan to allow the operation of new coal-fired power plants. Additionally, they emphasized that the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry had given final approval for this new construction plan despite the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report, issued in 2013 when the environmental assessment process was underway, raising concerns about the remaining carbon budget.
Mr. Ikeda, the head lawyer, pointed out that in the midst of worsening climate change, there is a need to recognize and fully examine the impact on human rights in building coal-fired power plants and the “appropriateness” of the environmental assessment procedures in the context of the purpose of the law. He mentioned that both of these two points should be within the authority of the judiciary, not within the discretion of executive power. He concluded by saying, “I would like to ask the court to make decisions from the perspective of human rights and fair procedures, which is the role of the court, in order to ensure that Japan is not left behind in the global decarbonization trend.”
The judgment date will be Tuesday, April 26, 2022, 2:30 p.m. at the Osaka High Court.
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Prior to the conclusion of the hearing, the citizen group No Coal Kobe submitted a request to the Hyogo Prefectural Environmental Council, calling for a forum with prefectural citizens in the revision of the “Hyogo Prefecture Global Warming Prevention Plan” and for developing a plan that addresses the climate crisis. No Coal Kobe continues to work towards a coal phase-out.