Temperature records were broken all over Japan in 2018 and the country is experiencing more extreme weather such as torrential rains and floods. This abnormal weather is increasingly being linked with climate change, and if it gets worse, our lives will be threatened by bigger and more frequent natural disasters.

Carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants are one of the top drivers of climate change, but there are plans to build more of them in Japan. One of these is a plant proposed by Kobe Steel in the densely-populated southern part of Kobe City.

The company plans to build two new generating units on the same site as two existing units. We are concerned that if these units are built, they will not only damage the health of local residents by emitting large amounts of air pollutants but also go in the opposite direction of climate policies by emitting significant amounts of CO2.

Residents have opposed this plan since it was first announced, from the perspective of environmental protection, but Japan lacks legislation that could help stop plans for coal-fired power plant construction. The national government’s environmental impact assessment process ended, and the company has now submitted construction plans in the summer of 2018.

This is why, 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. They are seeking a court injunction to prevent the construction and operation of the power plant.

This legal action launched in Kobe is not an issue for Kobe alone. What we cannot accept is businesses that pursue nothing but corporate profits, and this issue is the same in any area facing plans to build coal-fired power plants. We invite support and cooperation from everyone to wants to protect livelihoods and the health of nation’s children and grandchildren and to stop global warming.

The coal-fired power plant in operation is 400 meters from the residential area(1400MW)
The coal-fired power plant in operation is 400 meters from the residential area(1400MW)

Q. What’s wrong with coal-fired power plants?

A. (1) Their air pollution damages the health of local communities

They emit large amounts of air pollutants, including sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, soot and dust, so their emissions threaten public health as they spread out over large areas.

     (2) They accelerate global warming and 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.

Q. Who are the plaintiffs?

A. 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 livable environment for children and grandchildren, and today’s youngest generation, which has the right to inherit a livable 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.

Outline of planned Kobe Steel plant construction

Fuel: Coal

Output: 1300 MW (650 MW x 2 units)

Technology: Pulverized coal-fired, ultra supercritical (USC) power generation (without CCS)

Planned operation start: 2021 (Unit 1) 2022 (Unit 2)

Location: 2, Nadahama Higashicho, Nada-ku, Kobe, Hyogo, Japan

Planned coal-fired power plant
Planned coal-fired power plant

Citizens lawsuit to call for an injunction banning construction of Kobe Steel coal-fired power plant

Rationale and legal basis for injunction to halt construction and operation

1. Construction and operation of the coal-fired power plant would illegally violate the moral rights of plaintiffs.

* Violation of the right to clean air and a healthy and clean environment (right to a healthy and peaceful life) 

 The new plant would continue emitting air pollutants (NOx and PM 2.5, etc.) for many years, increasing risks to plaintiffs’ lives and health.

* Violation of the right to enjoy a stable climate (right to a stable climate)

 The new plant would emit large amounts of CO2 for more than 30 years. This would undeniably contribute to climate change, and as a result increase the risks to plaintiffs’ lives, health, and basis of life.

* The conduct causing injury would continue for many years, and the geographical scope of suffering injury would be significant.


2. Inconsistent with Japans climate targets for 2030 and 2050


3. Very near to residential areas where regulated air pollution and air quality standards are already being violated.


4. Construction of the new units is unnecessary, as the electrical system already has enough capacity to supply electricity in the Kansai region.


5. No consideration was given to alternatives with lower environmental impacts(e.g.,natural gas fired power),and the plan includes no carbon capture and storage(CCS)technology.


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Kobe administrative law suit case

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Citizens’ Committee on the Kobe Coal-Fired Power Plant