Industry and campaigners spar over SA's carbon tax

File: South Africa's new carbon tax has provoked a storm of criticism from environmental campaigners.

File: South Africa's new carbon tax has provoked a storm of criticism from environmental campaigners.

AFP

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa's new carbon tax has provoked a storm of criticism from environmental campaigners who say it is too weak -- and from industry that predicts it will cause mass job losses.

The new tax, the first of its type in Africa, was cautiously introduced last month in the first of several gradual steps and is scheduled to come into full force in three years' time.

The tax has been planned for almost a decade. But it was delayed in a country that is struggling to boost economic growth while also being the 14th largest polluter in the world, according to Greenpeace.

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The tax puts a price on releasing greenhouse gases from fuel combustion and industrial processes as countries work to meet the global climate change targets negotiated in Paris in 2015.

In South Africa, environmental groups such as the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) hailed the new tax as "a significant first step", but said it was far too weak at its present level.

Set at R120 per tonne of carbon dioxide, the tax will be largely offset by allowances to lower it to an effective rate of between six and R48 per tonne in the first three years.

'Weak but symbolic' 

South Africa's key mining sector, which is in long-term decline, fears the tax will further hasten its demise as one of the country's main employers.

The Minerals Council South Africa, which represents mining companies employing 450,00 people, said the tax could wipe out 6,800 jobs in the next two years and then about 6,000 jobs annually after that.

It described the tax as "the wrong method at the wrong time -- a time of already deep financial stress", adding it would "erode profitability through increasing costs resulting in a shrinking sector".

Trade unions have taken a more mixed stance.

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Matthew Parks, of the umbrella union Cosatu, said it was "worried about the impact of pollution and global warming on poor working-class communities".

But he added there were also major fears of the impact on jobs.

South Africa's unemployment rate is at near-record highs of more than 27 percent, with youth joblessness above 50 percent.

Parks said climate change could be "a perfect opportunity" to create jobs in South Africa through the manufacture of environmentally-friendly cars and solar energy exploiting the country's abundant sunshine.

But he said that "we feel that businesses just want profit and are reluctant to change".

Source
AFP