South Africans have a serious climate change problem. As the world’s 14th largest emitter of carbon dioxide, South Africans not only have a massive role to play in responding to climate change, but also a duty to the planet to shift to a lower-carbon economy. Because of its severe impact on agriculture, water resources, human health, infrastructure, ecosystems and energy, climate change can no longer be ignored. Given that most of South Africa’s carbon emissions result from energy generation and the industrial use of energy, and the fact that as much as 80% of South Africa’s primary energy is powered by coal, our prospects are scary. Greenhouse gas emissions like carbon dioxide trap heat in the atmosphere, contributing to devastating environmental outcomes like severe drought, heatwaves, flooding and wildfires. Regulate climate change More than eight years in the making, the Carbon Tax Act is anticipated to result in a 33% reduction in emissions relative to the baseline by 2035.Certain industries, like mining, cement production and fuel supply, will be liable to pay a carbon tax if their activities emit pollutants above a certain threshold. The Act takes an incremental approach to change, with two phases running from 2019 to the end of 2022 and onward. There is no blanket tax on carbon emissions, and the first phase gives businesses the chance to find their footing. Businesses will be able to offset their emissions through certain allowances, which could result in a reduction of up to 95% of the carbon tax payable. Consider the impact South African companies are advised to make use of the first phase of the Act to reduce their emissions in order to reduce their tax liability. From 2023 onwards, the tax rate is likely to increase while the allowances fall away. Sooner rather than later Now is the time for every business – small and medium-sized enterprises included – to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and investigate alternative energy sources, like solar and wind energy.