Climate Change and the South African Policy Approach for Industry and Commerce

2012-02-07 00:00

CURRENTLY, South Africa has no legislation requiring a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. However, in October 2011, the government released a National Climate Change Response White Paper which will pave the way for climate-change legislation by providing a description of the problems, possible measures to be implemented and the outcomes to be achieved. A Green Paper, published in 2010 also indicated the government’s view on emissions generated by commerce and industry.

According to the Green Paper, the commercial and manufacturing sectors are responsible for about 16% of total greenhouse gas emissions, but combined with the electricity consumed by these sectors, they are responsible for about 45% of total emissions.

Serious action therefore must be taken to reduce these emissions because energy efficiency is regarded as being a cost-effective means of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.

The White Paper proposed a number of mitigating actions. Within two years of its publication, the desired emission reduction outcomes for each sector and sub-sector of the economy will be defined. A carbon budget approach will also be adopted to provide for flexibility and least-cost mechanisms for companies and these will be revised as required based on monitoring, technological advances, new science, or new information. In line with Section 29(1) of the National Environmental Management Act: Air Quality Act, 2004, the minister may also require identified industries to submit and implement greenhouse gas emission-mitigation plans setting out how they intend to achieve the desired reductions.

Therefore, policy and legislation that favour sectors using less energy per unit of economic output will be introduced as will an escalating carbon dioxide tax on all energy-related carbon dioxide emissions. It is intended that by 2013, it will be mandatory for all significant emitters to submit greenhouse gas-emission or related data to the National Atmospheric Emission Inventory.

The Green Paper also posed some suggestions by the government for energy efficiency compliance in the industrial sector. These include the improvement of boiler efficiency, refrigeration, water heating, lighting and air compressors, motors, building shell design and the efficiency of energy management systems, including those for buildings.

Although a new binding period under the Kyoto Protocol was not established by the climate change conference, COP17, held recently in Durban, the Green and White Papers provide an indication of what the South African response to climate change will be.

• Rishal Bipraj is a candidate attorney specialising in Environmental Law at Garlicke & Bousfield.

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