Chapter 11 - Environmental Law
In recent years, the problem of global climate change has received increasing attention. Climate change has been caused by a significant increase in global greenhouse gas emissions (since the Industrial Revolution) and has led to various problems including increasing temperatures, rising sea levels and more extreme weather conditions including droughts and floods.
In response, the international community has adopted the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (‘UNFCCC’) and the Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC, which require the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by developed countries. Developing countries are not yet required (by the international community) to reduce, or mitigate, their greenhouse gas emissions. Another aspect of climate change is adaptation, which will see many (mainly developing) countries being forced to adapt to the negative impacts of climate change, including reduced crop yields caused by droughts.
South Africa has a relatively high level of greenhouse gas emissions, due to the fact that most of South Africa’s energy is produced from coal. While South Africa is a developing country, and government supports the position that developed countries should take the lead in responding to climate change, the South African government has acknowledged the urgency in responding to climate change. However, it is important that any climate change-related measures that are implemented do not impact negatively on the poor.
A number of policy papers have been drafted including the Initial National Communication under the UNFCCC (in 2000) and the National Climate Change Response Strategy (in 2004). Government also commissioned a study on addressing climate change, the Long-Term Mitigation Scenarios (in 2007) and has published a draft Second National Communication under the UNFCCC (in 2010). More recently, government published the National Climate Change Response Green Paper (GN 1083 in Government Gazette No. 33801 dated 25 November 2010), which sets out the climate change-related measures that could be implemented in the various sectors of South Africa’s economy. In addition, government has published a Carbon Tax Discussion Paper for comment. This document proposes to ‘put a price’ on carbon, so as to discourage the generation of carbon dioxide, thereby reducing South Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Some climate change-related measures have been implemented in South Africa, such as the establishment of targets for renewable energy and energy efficiency. In addition, government has indicated that it intends to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions below ‘business as usual levels’ by 2020. However, no significant and concrete measures have yet been implemented.
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