As reported in Nikkei Asian Review (21 Nov 2018) ,"in Japan's port city of Kobe, a pair of 150-meter high white chimneys tower over the bay. Located just beside a residential area only 15 minutes by car from the city center, the chimneys belong to a giant 1.4-gigawatt coal-fired power plant that is about to loom even larger over residents' lives. Brushing aside protests from environmentalists and locals, plant owner Kobe Steel started construction last month on a huge expansion project that will double the size -- and the emissions -- of the Kobe Power Plant. More than 14 million tons of carbon dioxide and other pollutants are expected to belch each year from the enlarged plant's chimneys by 2022 -- more than the entire CO2 emissions of the 1.5 million-strong city of Kobe.".
In 2018, residents launched two lawsuits seeking injunctions to stop construction of two coal power plant units in Kobe City, Japan. The Kobe Steel Power Plant Project is a plan to build two new power generating units just 400 meters from the residential area of Nada-ward in Kobe. Schools and hospitals are located nearby. Already in May 2018, the national government’s environmental impact assessment process was completed, and construction plans were submitted the summer that year. These new plants will emit enormous amounts of harmful air pollutants, with serious health impacts on residents. They will also negate efforts to fight climate change by emitting huge amounts of CO2 emissions. But there are no regulatory tools in Japan to stop coal plant construction. Despite opposition from residents in the region who have suffered from air pollution for years, construction plans for these two new plants were submitted to the government in the summer of 2018. Therefore, the residents of Kobe City launched two court challenges. One calls for an injunction to prevent business owner Kobe Steel Ltd., its subsidiary Kobelco Power Kobe No. 2 Inc., and Kansai Electric Power Co., Inc. from building and operating the new units. The other calls for a judicial review to determine whether or not the national government has violated legislation by failing to control and stop this plan through legal procedures and standards, and for permitting the plan to go ahead despite an insufficient assessment of environmental impacts. These court challenges launched by Kobe residents are driven by a strong desire to protect children’s future by preventing air pollution, preventing climate change, and shifting to sustainable energy (3).
On September 14, 2018, residents living mainly in Kobe City took a legal action against Kobe Steel Ltd., one of its subsidiary companies and Kansai Electric Power Co., Inc. in the Kobe District Court. The plaintiffs are the three generations of citizens living in Kobe City and the vicinity of the power plant, including members of grandparents’ and parents’ generations who want leave behind a liveable environment for children and grandchildren, and today’s youngest generation, which has the right to inherit a liveable environment. So, this lawsuit could be considered “next-generation litigation” to pass on a planet to future generations free of pollution and the ravages of climate change. The two new units planned would emit 6.92 million tons of CO2 in Japan each year, equivalent to 0.6% of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions or the CO2 emissions of 1.5 million Japanese households (1).
According to the Kobe Newspaper, the first oral argument was held at the Osaka District Court (Judge Miwakata) on the 5th of January 2019. Residents insisted that "new construction is not allowed", asking for the cancellation of the confirmation notice that the Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry approved the plan in the environmental impact assessment (EIA). The plaintiffs claimed that the country has shown a fighting stance. In the oral argument, the residents said, "Coal-fired power generation emits more than twice as much CO2 as natural gas," and the two new Shinko units (total output of 1.3 million kilowatts) "produce about 7 million tons per year over a long period of time." Concerned about global warming. Based on the international framework for global warming countermeasures, the Paris Agreement, he insisted that the government's CO2 reduction target could never be achieved if a new coal-fired power plant were to be built. One of the plaintiffs pointed out that "great damage will occur to people all over the world, including Kobe," due to the increase in abnormal weather caused by climate change and the rise in sea level. The final notice complained that "the government has an obligation to protect the health and safety of its citizens", saying that it "has not given proper consideration to environmental conservation" and "has neglected proper environmental assessment". One of the plaintiffs who stated his opinion, Erina Imai (22), a 4th year student at Kobe University, said that she was "very scared" because of the effects of warming compiled by international organizations such as the forecast of sea level rise in Japan. In Western countries, "decarbonization" to give up on coal-fired power is accelerating. "Japan should also break away early so as not to be left behind by the tides of the world," he said. On the other hand, the government demanded that the claim be dismissed, and said that detailed allegations would be made later, saying that "the legality of the complaint is doubtful." However, Construction of the new coal-fired power plant started in October last year, with the aim of starting operations in 2021-22(4). (Oral argument (Kotobenron) is a case in which both parties or litigation agents express their opinions and allegations in the proceedings of a civil procedure in Japan in front of a judge in a public court. An act of litigation that makes an argument for attack defence.)
A general meeting of shareholders of Kobe Steel, Ltd. was held on June 20th, 2019. About 20 plaintiffs and supporters protested at the station closest to the general meeting venue. The protesters called out to shareholders their opinions to review the coal-fired power business, which has a high business risk. According to media reports, several shareholders have expressed concern about the future of the coal-fired power business. Showing a sign of the impact of citizen movements to the stakeholders (5). The fight against coal fired power generation in Kobe is an ongoing case.
Japan supports CFPPs at home, The Kobe project is one of more than 30 new power stations being planned or built by Japan that burn coal -- the dirtiest and most polluting fossil fuel, And also through its banks and international development agencies, Japan is funding a wave of huge CFPPs from Vietnam to Indonesia. .
On March 15, 2021, the Second Civil Affairs Department of the Osaka District Court dismissed the action requesting the cancellation of the Kobe Steel Coal-Fired Power Plant (1.3 million kW, annual CO2 emissions of about 7 million tons) under construction by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry in Nada Ward, Kobe City.