On September 14, 2018, thirty-one families filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction to prevent the construction and operation of two units at a coal-fired plant in Kobe, Japan. The plaintiffs are represented by the Citizens' Committee on the Kobe Coal-Fired Power Plant and named Kobe Steel Ltd., Kobelco Power Kobe No. 2 Inc. and Kansai Electric Power Co., Inc. as defendants. According to the plaintiffs, the new units would have a total output of 1,300 megawatts, and emit 0.6% of the nation's carbon dioxide emissions from energy. They assert that the construction and operation of the new coal-fired units would violate the right to clean air and a healthy and clean environment and right to enjoy a stable climate; conflict with Japan's 2030 and 2050 climate targets; and pollute in residential areas where air quality standards are already being violated.
On March 20, 2023, the Kobe District Court delivered a judgment discussing the request for an injunction to the construction and operation of the coal-fired power plants.
Firstly, the Kobe District Court discussed if air pollution caused by the coal-fired power plants would violate personal rights of the citizens. As for those Plaintiffs who live far from Kobe city, the Court said that there was no threat of a violation of personal rights to life, bodily integrity, and health by the emission of air pollutants from the power plants in question. As for the other Plaintiffs, the Court examined if there was a ‘concrete danger’ to determine a violation of personal rights. To determine this, the Court considered the Notice of Finalization that affirmed the assessment of SO2, NO2, SPM, and mercury and concluded that those substances would not create a concrete danger to the citizens. Further, regarding PM2.5 which was not included in the assessment, the Court considered the outcome of the simulation but did not recognize the existence of a concrete danger either. Consequently, the Court did not find a violation of personal rights to life, bodily integrity, and health.
Secondly, the Kobe District Court determined if air pollution caused by the coal-fired power plants would violate the right to a peaceful life. The Court repeated that there was no concrete danger to life or health and stated that granting an injunction based on non-serious anxiety about a healthy life could not limit socio-economic activities. Hence, the Court concluded that there was no violation of the right to a peaceful life.
Thirdly, the Court discussed if climate change aggravated by the use of the coal-fired power plants would violate personal rights. On this point, the Court states that climate change is likely to occur in Hyogo as the progression of global warming would affect the entire earth and the Plaintiffs may suffer damage, yet the Court continues by saying that there are many uncertain factors including the level of damage by disasters and the place where a disaster actually happens. Moreover, the Plaintiffs argued that the existence of a concrete danger should be judged by the level of danger of climate change by considering the carbon emission reduction targets by the international community. The Court stated that the concrete danger could not be equated with the danger of global warming as a whole since the concrete danger of damage to the Plaintiffs needed to be determined on the basis of damage that global warming would cause to each individual whereas the reduction targets aimed at preventing global warming for the whole earth.
Further, the Court stated that the operation of the coal-fired power plants would not immediately render the achievement of the reduction targets impossible. Thus, the Court did not recognize the existence of a concrete danger to the Plaintiffs’ life, bodily integrity, and health while it stated that there could be an abstract danger by the emission of CO2 that could aggravate global warming.
Lastly, the Court discussed if climate change would violate the right to a peaceful life, or the right to a stable climate which the Plaintiffs’ claimed as being included in the right to a peaceful life. First, the Court stated that the Plaintiffs’ anxiety about climate change was not serious as it was about the uncertain danger in the future. Second, the Court said that the Plaintiffs’ claim was considered as a request to protect the environment in the absence of a concrete danger and that the right to a stable climate was not legally protected. Third, the Court stated that even if those points made above were affirmative the responsibility could not be unilaterally attributed to the new coal-fired power plants in question.
In conclusion, the Kobe District Court did not find a ground for an injunction. On April 1, 2023, the citizens appealed the judgment.
|09/14/2018||Complaint||Download||Complaint in Japanese|
|09/15/2018||Complaint||Download||Summary of the complaint in English.|
|03/20/2023||Decision||Download||First instance judgment (in Japanese, 104 pages) Citizens’ Committee on the Kobe Coal-Fired Power Plant v. Kobe Steel Ltd., et al.|
|04/01/2023||Appeal||Download||Statement of appeal|