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Indonesian coal plant green-lit despite climate impact

ClientEarth has joined with other legal and environmental expert groups to offer evidence to an Indonesian court considering a case against a coal plant in the country.

The plant, Celukan Bawang, is located in rural northern Bali between West Bali National Park and a coastal region where the communities are dependent on tourism and fisheries.

In January this year, community representatives and Greenpeace Indonesia filed a lawsuit against the Governor of Bali’s decision to grant an environmental permit for the plant’s expansion.

The groups claim that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was done without community involvement, which is required by law, was not included in the Indonesia National Electric Power Supply Plan and that Bali already has enough power capacity to meet demand.

Significantly, they also claim the EIA failed to consider the plant’s climate change impacts.

ClientEarth has now contributed to an amicus brief, a type of legal document which provides legal clarity from an expert standpoint to aid the court in its decision, which was submitted this week.  The Indonesian Centre for Environmental Law (ICEL) and EarthJustice led the drafting of the brief, which was also supported by several other organisations.

The brief supports the community’s claims that that Indonesian law requires power plant operators to include climate change impacts in their EIA – and that this was not done in this case.

ClientEarth lawyer Sam Bright said: “Climate change is driven by greenhouse gas emissions – especially from coal power plants. Indonesia has signed the Paris Agreement, which seeks to limit the devastating impacts of climate change.

“In this context, it is unthinkable that the Indonesian authorities would allow a coal plant to be extended without thoroughly considering how this will contribute to climate change, and the harm this could cause local communities. We are happy to provide our expertise in demonstrating how climate impacts are taken into account in other legal jurisdictions.”

Because climate change impact assessment is relatively new in Indonesia, it is expected that the court will consider best practice from around the world.

In the brief, the organisations note that, assuming that the power station will operate at 85 percent efficiency for 30 years, in accordance with the plant’s business licence, the expansion will result in the burning of at least 75million tons of coal. This will result in the release of more than 200 million tons of CO2 over the thirty-year life of the plant.

This means that the EIA should consider both the plant’s direct contribution to climate change, but also how this changing climate will impact the project. For example, rising sea levels and storm surges could harm the plant’s physical integrity, including coal handling and coal ash storage facilities.

ClientEarth provided evidence in relation to the European Union’s Environmental Impact Assessment Directive, which contains explicit provisions requiring the direct and indirect effects of a project on climate to be taken into account.

This general requirement has existed since 1985. Amendments, which and have been binding since 2017, provide more detailed requirements, and these are further fleshed out in guidance produced by the European Commission. In its contribution to the brief, ClientEarth outlined these in more detail.



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