SA Carbon Tax Bill to be released to Parliament

The South African Carbon Tax Bill will be released to Parliament, said finance minister Malusi Gigaba in his mid-term budget speech on 25 October 2017. Climate Neutral Group (CNG) welcomes the news, calling it a great step forward in South Africa’s commitment to fighting climate change.

Besides expected topics such as national energy security and proposed investments in infrastructure and other sectors, Gigaba’s 2017 mid-term budget statement also featured the proposed Carbon Tax Bill.

“In addition tabling of tax legislation for the 2017 Budget, I am happy to announce that Cabinet has approved the release of the South African Carbon Tax Bill to Parliament for formal consideration and adoption,” he said in Cape Town on 25 October.

Carbon management and corporate climate action firm Climate Neutral Group (CNG), which is based in Cape Town, has welcomed the update around the Carbon Tax Bill, of which the first draft was published in November 2015.

“The main thing is that South Africa’s private sector should now start preparing for new carbon legislation in 2018,” says Franz Rentel, CNG’s Director in South Africa. He noted that Gigaba’s mention of the Carbon Tax Bill proves South Africa’s commitment to fighting climate change and the Paris Agreement.

“A carbon tax law will reduce South Africa’s overall emission of greenhouse gases. This is crucial as we have one of the largest carbon footprints in the world. This is because the bulk of our electricity is generated from coal,” Rentel said, noting that the direct implications of climate change are becoming more and more apparent. “Take the persistent drought in the Western Cape and other extreme weather events like the storm in Durban earlier this year. We all can help curb the prevalence and extent of these events, saving lives and protecting the economy.”

Whilst welcoming the news, Rentel noted that the current draft of the Carbon Tax Bill has at least one major shortcoming: the uncertainty regarding offsetting regulations. “From a private sector point of view carbon offsetting is crucial in lowering one’s carbon tax liability. The revised offsetting regulations, therefore, need to be published as soon as possible, seeing that there will not be enough carbon offsets supply to meet potential demand and the long lead time it takes to develop new offsetting projects.”

Rentel stressed that South Africa isn’t the only country with a Carbon Tax law. “According to the World Bank, 15% of all global emissions were subjected to a tax or a pricing mechanism in 2016. Over the past ten months, eight new carbon pricing initiatives came into being, including in Colombia,” he said, noting that Colombia’s Carbon Tax and Trade scheme is quite similar to South Africa’s proposed law. “The country, however, has passed its carbon legislation in the fraction of time compared to South Africa.”

Whilst a new set of corporate tax rules may sound like bad news, Rentel says it doesn’t have to be that way. “A carbon tax law will make companies in South Africa rethink how they can minimise their carbon emissions in order to pay fewer carbon taxes. Besides being good for the planet and lowering one’s carbon tax payments, increased resource efficiency typically results in lower operational costs,” he said, stressing that climate change is a global problem that affects everyone, business included. “That is why everyone needs to get on board, including the public and the private sector.

This article was originally published by Bizcommunity.

Colombia’s carbon tax: is South Africa next?

In June 2017 Colombia, as the third developing country in the world after Mexico and Chile, has successfully passed new environmental and carbon tax legislation. This new scheme allows Colombian organisations to offset 100% of their tax liabilities. What does the Colombian carbon tax entail and what type of carbon offset projects are allowed to participate? We compare and contrast the Colombian carbon tax with South Africa’s proposed carbon tax bill and offsetting rules, with the objective to discuss the importance of a carbon tax law in South Africa.

Colombia’s commitment to climate change

Colombia has successfully ratified the Paris Climate Agreement, committing to reduce emissions by 20% by 2030, 30% below Business-as-Usual (BAU), with international support. President Juan Manuel Santos, who was inspired by Al Gore’s words, has been debating the introduction of the carbon tax since 2011. The Colombian government admitted that more than 70% of Colombian territory is vulnerable to global temperature rises. To be more precise, the majority of the population lives in the elevated Andes, where water shortages and land instability are already a reality, and on the coast, where the increase in sea level and floods can affect key human settlements and economic activities.

While many critics have expressed their scepticism regarding the sincerity of Juan Manuel Santos’s administration concern for environmental sustainability, the Colombian Government ultimately approved a tax on fossil fuels (Part IX, Impuesto Nacional al Carbono) equivalent to approximately US$5/tCO2e payable by producers and importers of fuels in December 2016. Furthermore, in June 2017, the Colombian government finalised the rules and conditions of carbon offsetting to allow high-quality carbon credits to be used against the carbon tax obligations. Unlike South Africa, where the use of carbon credits is proposed to be capped at only 5% to 10%, Colombian entities can offset 100% of their tax liability by investing in carbon offset projects. In addition, carbon credits generated outside of Colombia are eligible until the end of 2017, after which only Colombian carbon credits can be used. By allowing a cap of 100% as well as non-domestic credits during the first few months of the scheme, helps boost market liquidity – crucial in the early stages of any new domestic carbon scheme.
We have briefly reviewed the carbon tax and offset rules in Colombia and compared them to South Africa in the table below:

Colombia and South Africa are considered upper middle-income countries. Both countries are rich in natural resources (e.g. gold, silver, platinum, oil and coal). Although Colombia faces a number of challenges, such as armed conflicts, illegal drug problems, disjointed urban and rural contexts, and limitations in subnational administrative capacity, the country has stepped up the fight on man-made climate change. It has followed the example of other Latin American countries, such as Mexico and Chile, who also put a price on carbon and make fossil fuel industries accountable for their emissions.

Where does South Africa stand?
South Africa is an important and active player in global climate change negotiations. The country has a very strong national climate change response agenda and a highly advanced regulatory and law enforcement framework. Nevertheless, the country faces political instability and corruption that unfortunately is delaying the enforcement and implementation of environmental regulations, and discourages private investment and the uptake of low carbon technologies. The delay in the signing of the power purchase agreements of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPP) is one example of many.
The South African carbon market is currently in limbo and if the carbon tax bill does not become law sooner rather than later, the country will miss the opportunity to ensure a much needed, and overdue, transition to low carbon economy which will help generate more employment and make South Africa more globally competitive. Therefore, it is crucial that the revised carbon tax bill, which was supposed to be tabled in Parliament mid-2017, is released as soon as possible. Whilst Colombia has transparent and straightforward carbon tax rules and offsetting legislation, South Africa is still in process of clarifying and simplifying the procedures. How long will it still take South Africa to sign the carbon tax into law? The government has a chance to follow the example of Latin American countries and to become a role model for all African countries in cutting its emissions. The challenge the South African government faces is not only to design and to implement an effective carbon tax and carbon offset regulations but also to carefully balance the energy needs, development priorities and environmental objectives.

Author: Jana Hofmann, Leading Researcher, Climate Neutral Group. For more info, contact Jana at jana.hofmann@climateneutralgroup.com