On May 27, 2019, 45 people including the local population in Yokosuka filed a lawsuit against the Government of Japan, calling for cancellation of the confirmation on the environmental impact assessment (hereinafter EIA) for Yokosuka coal-fired power generation plan (press release). The defendant is the Government of Japan.
The plaintiffs argue that the EIA did not appropriately assess the problems of coal-fired power plant which would emit a large amount of greenhouse gases and air pollutants. They demand the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry (hereinafter METI) cancel the confirmation of the EIA.
This kind of climate lawsuit is not unique nowadays, however in Japan, this Yokosuka case is the only third case, following similar actions in Sendai and Kobe. A civil lawsuit was filed against the coal-fired power plant planned by the Kobe Steel on September 14, 2018 and an administrative lawsuit was filed on November 19, 2018. The Yokosuka administrative lawsuit calls for the cancellation of the confirmation notice of the Minister of METI applying simplified EIA as “replacement” projects from less efficient existing thermal power plants, and admitting that it is not necessary to change the EIA for new power plants.
Criticism of coal-fired power generation has become stronger, but Japan is still continuing building new plants. This is rare compared with other developed countries, leaving Japan increasingly isolated in the global trend away from coal. This lawsuit demonstrates widespread support to move away from coal, and implies that legal risks has been rising in Japan. Now, it is time to stop the construction plan and undertake a review of Japan’s energy policy.