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Greenhouse Gas Emissions reporting rules a fact

5/4/17 (InfrastructureNews) – South Africa’s National Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reporting Regulations were implemented by environmental affairs minister Edna Molewa in April 2017. The first reporting deadline is 31 March 2018.

The regulations aim to introduce a single national reporting system for the transparent reporting of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, which will be used predominantly to update and maintain a National Greenhouse Gas Inventory.

It will also be used to assist South Africa in meeting its international obligations in relation to climate change mitigation. Law firm Webber Wentzel has compiled a breakdown of the new regulations, including how the regulations work in practice and what they mean for you.

An integrated GHG reporting system

The rationale for an integrated Greenhouse Gas Emissions reporting system is based on the imminent imposition of the carbon tax for identified affected sectors in South Africa. These sectors will be identified based on their GHG emission concentrations.

The Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reporting Regulations are one of the implementation tools which will be used to regulate the reporting of data and information from identified point, non-point and mobile sources of atmospheric emissions to the National Air Emission Inventory System (NAEIS) with a view to compiling atmospheric emission inventories to inform the proposed carbon tax.

Although still in draft form, the declaration of GHGs as priority air pollutants (which will require persons conducting an activity within a designated GHG emission threshold to prepare a pollution prevention plan in accordance with the proposed National Pollution Prevention Plans Regulations) will, once finalised, and when combined with the GHG Reporting Regulations, complete the regulatory regime for the mandatory reporting of air emissions to the NAEIS housed on the South African Air Quality Information System.  This all means that the dominos are slowly being lined up for the carbon tax to be formalised.

How will the GHG Reporting Regulations work in practice?

The GHG Regulations differentiate between Category A data providers (which include persons controlling or conducting activities which emit GHGs) and Category B data providers (which include public bodies and academic/research institutions which hold GHG emission data for the purposes of calculating GHG emissions).

These data providers are required to report on GHG emissions activities at their facilities in line with the identified categories of emissions sources set out in Annexure 1 to the GHG Reporting Regulations.

The reporting obligations imposed on Category A data providers are more stringent and comprehensive than for those in Category B, as they are based on operational control and must cover all process, fugitive and combustion emissions from all GHG emission sources and source streams belonging to listed activities.

The methods for reporting GHG emissions data are set out in the “Technical Guidelines for Monitoring, Reporting and Verification of Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Industry” for each tier specifying the relevant emission sources.

Category A data providers must submit the GHG emissions and activity data for all of their facilities and in accordance with the data and format requirements specified in Annexure 3 for each preceding calendar year, to the competent authority by 31 March of each year (or the next working day). The competent authority has 60 days following a submission to approve a Category A data provider’s data or to request that such data be validated and verified. Category B data providers, on the other hand, must submit emissions and activity data collected only when requested to do so by the competent authority.

What does this mean for you?

At this stage, all designated data providers, whether Category A or Category B, will be required to register their facilities on the NAEIS or with the competent authority where activities at their facilities exceed the thresholds listed in Annexure 1 by 7 May 2017 or within 30 days after commencing such an activity if at a later stage.

Webber Wentzel said it is a criminal offence for a data provider to provide false or misleading information to the competent authority or to fail to comply with its registration, reporting and record-keeping obligations as set out in the GHG Reporting Regulations.

Emissions offsetting: closing the main carbon tap of your business

By Danielle de Bruin, Programme Manager Mobility / Climate Neutral Group in The Netherlands

A car leasing company called us recently with a query around sustainability and transport. “We are not offsetting emissions because we think prevention is better” was one of the statements. Upon concluding our telephone conversation, during which we agreed on many points, one issue lingered on.

Prevention is better than offsetting: is that true? To find an answer, we will need to look at two things:

1. Can companies prevent climate change just by reducing their carbon emissions?

The answer is no. Reducing emissions is not enough. Of course, every little bit helps and lowering your overall emissions from your fuel consumption and energy use is something you should definitely do. This is however not where it ends.

After all, if your kitchen is flooding because you have left the tap open, you must close the tap and mop the floor. By reducing your company’s fuel and energy consumption, thus carbon footprint, you are closing your carbon emission tap only a little, say by up to 20%, if you are doing everything right.

The problem is that you can’t ignore the remaining 80%. A transition to electric transport could be a structural solution, but it could take many years before we reach that point. Do we have time to wait for this? I don’t think so. You can’t say: “I am sorry your kitchen is flooded. I will return next month to close the tap.”

2. Is there a difference between reducing emissions and offsetting?

The answer is no. Please allow me to explain why.

In the Netherlands, our infrastructure is largely based on fossil fuels. We fill up our cars with petrol and diesel and the bulk of our electricity is generated from coal. We all know how much effort it takes to change this: coal plants aren’t after all easily closed. In essence, we are all on the fossil fuel highway together, whilst making hairpin bends towards a more sustainable economy. Meanwhile, dozens of emerging markets around the world are developing rapidly, and are embarking on a similar path as the developed world a good few years ago. These countries will have to make the same hairpin bends in 20 years’ time to get rid their fossil fuels.

What is offsetting all about?

Offsetting means investing in sustainable energy projects in countries which are developing at a fast pace to prevent reliance on fossil fuels. One can, for instance, invest in wind turbines in India. With this, you are investing in clean, sustainable electricity grids from the word go – preventing emerging economies from becoming dependent on fossil fuels.

In other words, does offsetting equal reduction?

The answer is: yes. Offsetting is much more than closing the tap or mopping the floor. Offsetting your emissions means you are aware of the fact that greenhouse gases originate from several taps and that you have to close the largest, not just the most obvious. We essentially all benefit from offsetting.

The following day, I called the lease company and explained the above. The result? The firm in question is now one of our clean transport ambassadors in The Netherlands, and it is persuading their clients to offset their emissions. What about you?

The above is applicable to South Africa. Please contact us to see how your company can start reducing and offsetting its carbon emissions.