Kenya’s National Environmental Tribunal ruled this week that the government and its industry-allies failed to submit a proper environmental impact assessment to build a coal power on Lamu island.
The $2 billion plant, with more than half of the financing coming from the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), was projected to produce 1,050 megawatts of badly-needed electricity. But that power would have likely come at a very high environmental cost.
“We welcome this decision because it shows that communities cannot be taken for granted” — Omar Elmawi, DeCOALize Campaign Coordinator
Environmental activists warned that the plant would have increased Kenya’s carbon emissions by 700% and caused serious damage to local farms and fishing grounds.
The government now has 30 days to appeal the ruling.
There’s been no official response from ICBC or the Chinese government as to how they plan to respond to the tribunal’s decision. Critics of the proposed plant want to encourage China to walk away from this project, rightly pointing out that building coal plants in pristine environments like Lamu does not help China’s environmental image in Africa. Instead, they argue, there’s an opportunity here for Beijing to align its rhetoric on sustainability and green technology along its Belt and Road trade route with financing that will go to support renewable electricity initiatives.
Omar Elmawi, a campaign coordinator for the anti-coal advocacy group DeCOALonize that was also a plaintiff in the case against that went before the environmental tribunal, is cautiously optimistic that both the Chinese and Kenya supporters of the plant will back down. But, it’s still too early to tell.
- Quartz Africa: China’s plan to help build Kenya’s first coal plant has been stopped—for now by Abdi Latif Dahir
- BBC News: Kenya halts Lamu coal power project at World Heritage Site
- The New York Times: Why Build Kenya’s First Coal Plant? Hint: Think China by Somini Sengupta
About Omar Elmawi:
Omar Elmawi, coordinator of the deCOALonize campaign and a resident of Lamu. He is a trained lawyer with an interest in environmental protection and community rights. Omar is passionate about Renewable Energy and a believer that Kenya can meet its energy demands 100% through renewable energy.