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South Africa displays global leadership in tackling carbon emissions and climate change

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carbon emissionsWWF International’s Global Climate & Energy Initiative (GCEI) has today welcomed the announcement this week of a package of measures aimed at reducing South Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions.

South Africa ranks 10th among the world’s largest carbon emitters and the announcement to implement  a carbon tax in January 2015 by South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan yesterday signals a significant step in the right direction, says Tasneem Essop, head of the GCEI’s Low Carbon Frameworks unit.

Gordhan, speaking during his budget speech, said the South African government wanted to send a signal to industry and consumers “that we are living in an environmentally stressed world”.

He said South Africa would implement a carbon tax from January 2015 at a cost of $14(R120) per ton of CO2 equivalent, with a tax-free exemption threshold of 60% and additional allowances for emissions intensive and trade-exposed industries. Support for production of environmentally friendly bio fuel and upgrading of refineries to cleaner fuel standards will be introduced.  Additionally, spending on various environmental programmes such as installing solar water geysers, procuring renewable energy, low carbon public transport will continue to be financially supported by government.

“This is fantastic news and comes at a time when many countries are dithering in their responsibilities to address climate change and reducing their carbon footprints. It is significant that a country with serious development challenges such as poverty and inequality takes this huge step. It displays leadership and political will and underscores South Africa’s role in the world as a responsible global citizen,” says Essop. “We would like this initiative by the South African government to stimulate similar commitments by other countries, especially industrialised countries who should in fact be leading on climate action.”

Salim Fakir, head of WWF-SA’s Living Planet Unit, echoed Essop’ s sentiments, noting that the South African government had recognised the critical link between long-term environmental sustainability and economic development. “This inspires hope that South Africa will experience better resource management and also deal with the negative environmental impacts from certain types of economic activity going forward, which, if not dealt with, will come at a massive cost to the economy.”

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