SA to tax CO2 emissions

2008-07-28 00:00

Cape Town — In a bid to urgently meet the challenge of climate change in South Africa, the government is set to introduce a carbon dioxide (CO2) tax aimed at regulating the effects of carbon on the environment.

The government will also call on all business sectors, including industry, commerce, transport and residential, to come up with targets and actions in the next few months aimed at energy efficiency.

Briefing the media on the government’s strategy on climate policy, Environmental Affairs Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk gave no details of his tax proposal, but said South Africa must move away from dirty coal as its dominant source of energy and increase use of renewable sources of energy.

Van Schalkwyk introduced the strategy following discussions on policy recommendations at the cabinet Lekgotla last week.

He said the climate challenge is urgent, and the government has come up with a comprehensive, cutting-edge domestic response based on the best available scientific and other research.

Van Schalkwyk warned that the longer South Africa waits to move to more renewables, the more difficult and expensive it will become to do so.

“Ninety percent of our energy is from coal. To make sure that our economy continues to be competitive, we must, now while we still have room … take a decision to diversify and look at other forms of energy,” he said.

“We will continue to rely on coal, but we must move to cleaner coal. We must also push up our use of renewables … as well as the use of nuclear energy. The longer we wait, the more difficult and expensive it will become.”

Van Schalkwyk said the government’s vision and the implementation of its policy framework will be the best insurance policy which current and future generations will have against the potentially devastating impacts of climate change.

He said scientific research has shown that an increase in global average temperature of more than two degrees Celsius poses a danger to everyone, but, in particular, the poor.

“To avoid the worst impacts of climate change we need to limit the temperature increase to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. We are already about 0,7 degrees above pre-industrial levels.”

Van Schalkwyk said the government’s strategy will include an acceleration of energy efficiency and conservation across all sectors; an investment in ambitious research and development targets which focus on carbon-friendly technologies, identifying new resources and affecting behavioural change; and setting up regulatory mechanisms.

These measures would be combined with economic instruments such as taxes and incentives aimed at setting compulsory targets for energy efficiency.

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