Environmentalists react to budget speech

2013-02-28 08:22
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan in parliament. (Picture: AFP)

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan in parliament. (Picture: AFP)

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Cape Town - Environmentalists have had a mixed reaction to Pravin Gordhan's budget speech tabled in the National Assembly on Wednesday.

The finance minister said that SA would introduce a carbon tax from 2015 and other environmental proposals as the country aims to limit the impact of climate change.

The World Wide Fund for Nature welcomed the carbon tax initiative, but cautioned that its implementation should take heed of the risk to the economy.

"At the same time, WWF-SA warns that a carbon tax must be implemented with caution and due consideration for its potential economic impacts," the WWF said.

Greenpeace took a harder line as the organisation was concerned that the implementation would delay the move away from carbon-intensive industry.

Global reality

"While the proposed carbon tax  should  ensure that the true cost of carbon intensive industries are included in their costing, its application in 2015 might be too little too late.  Climate change is a present and real threat which requires government to take action now," Greenpeace said.

Australia introduced a carbon tax in 2012 and the WWF said that SA would have to adjust to a global reality of taxing carbon emissions.

"A carbon tax is a form of pre-emption against similar types of taxes being imposed on South African exports. A carbon tax also allows us to adjust gradually to what is likely to become standard in the major global economy," said Saliem Fakir, the Head of WWF South Africa's Living Planet Unit.

The organisation was quick to add that the carbon tax was the first step in addressing one of the causes of climate change.

"Now that the commitment has been made, government will need to ensure the effectiveness of a carbon tax by examining the implications for different sectors, implementation measures, and the smooth facilitation of the move away from fossil-intensive energy sources toward cleaner, renewable energy," said the WWF.

Greenpeace agreed, saying that SA should be moving toward renewable energy with greater speed.

"Greenpeace believes that greater investment in renewable energy technology is urgently required, to transition to a low carbon economy which is free from the polluting effects of coal and dangers of nuclear," said Greenpeace.


Scientists are worried that continued use of fossil fuel will increase the global temperature beyond the 2°C measure, leading to what is known as the runaway feedback effect where extreme weather events may become the norm.

Emissions of carbon will have to be drastically reduced to limit the impact of climate change, particularly on vulnerable communities.

"We may still be able to avert some of them, with radical mitigation or steep emissions reductions, but the window of opportunity is closing. It may be possible to contain some, or at least ameliorate them, but geo-engineering options are mostly highly speculative," WWF climate expert Richard Worthington told News24.

Some in the media have dismissed climate change as a scientific reality, but Worthington said that the top UN organisation on climate had garnered broad consensus on climate change.

"There are various forms of denialism - active efforts to sow confusion or generally obscure the broad scientific consensus reflected in IPCC reports."

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Read more on:    wwf  |  pravin gordhan  |  climate change

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