South Africa’s biggest emitters to be exposed to public scrutiny
Mining News Pro - South Africa’s emission levels are as high as those of the eight-times-larger UK economy, EDS Systems business development head Eckart Zollner pointed out on Friday, when he also drew attention to the mounting pressure on South Africa’s biggest polluters to curb their greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions.

Zollner stated that the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries was scheduled to release its report on the GHG emissions pertaining to South Africa’s largest polluters within seven days of the end of the national lockdown.

This, he said, would result in large corporates having to face public scrutiny of their air pollution data and anti-pollution plans, in addition to tax on excess carbon emission.

“With two of the largest polluters accountable for 40% of South Africa’s GHG emissions alone, it’s time for businesses and individuals alike to acknowledge that the urgency of the situation requires everyone to accurately quantify, assess and reduce their contributions in order to prevent catastrophic climate change,” Zollner stated.

Once lockdown had been lifted, information on 16 of South Africa’s biggest polluters would be released for public examination, including information relating to their annual emissions, their plans to reduce those over five years and audited reports on target progress. This would also serve to emphasise Carbon Tax Act obligations.

Failing to show that they were taking sufficient steps would, Zollner stated, result in a public outcry in addition to an increased tax burden.

“While businesses might feel pressured to reassess their emissions and lower their carbon footprint, quantifying their contribution in order to determine an appropriate decarbonisation framework isn’t that difficult.

“Technology solutions that monitor carbon footprint as well as showing tax liability have made it a simple matter of generating an accurate visualisation and report based on the input of emissions or process data, breaking tax liability down into its relevant emissions sources per emitter site.

“This provides an overview of the company’s liability from a carbon tax perspective, and tracking, tracing and assessing the carbon footprint across the organisation to calculate a carbon tax amount owing, that considers any offset reductions,” Zollner stated.

As reported by Mining Weekly earlier this month, Environment Minister Barbara Creecy granted Eskom an additional two months to bring its emissions-breaching Kendal power station into line with minimum emission standards (MES), which also set limits for nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide. The Ministerial action came against the background of Kendal failing to comply with the particulate-emissions component of MES for a prolonged period. The plant’s environmental performance worsened materially in mid-2018, when dust-handling protocols were breached and equipment damaged, following a decision to sustain production amid severe system constraints.

In an interview with Mining Weekly in October, Creecy stated that, in implementing a just transition from a high-carbon economy to a low-carbon economy, decisions needed to be made on alternative employment for workers at coal-fired power stations due for retirement, a sentiment reiterated to Mining Weekly this week by Minerals Council South Africa CEO Roger Baxter.

Zollner described South Africa’s heavy dependence on coal for most of its electricity production as being hugely problematic.

“To address our responsibility as a signatory to the Paris Accord, South Africa recently implemented its Carbon Tax Act which calculates a tax liability based on the GHG emissions of an organisation that exceed the legislative threshold.

“Although payment of this tax was due on June 1 for companies that fall within phase one, filing and payment has been delayed by the government for three months in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. But filing and payment will commence in future and organisations must still prepare,” Zollner added.

Meanwhile, the transitioning of a US power station and a Dutch power station from coal to renewable hydrogen is leading the way in a world urgently in need of technically achievable and cost-effective climate-change mitigation.

Interestingly, the ground-breaking transition by Intermountain Power Agency, of Utah, and the Magnum Vattenfall power plant, in the Netherlands, is being facilitated by Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems, which has steam generator projects at Eskom’s new Medupi and Kusile coal-fired power stations in South Africa. Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems emphasised in the release that it was now focused on bringing similar decarbonisation solutions to Africa.

The deployment of similar cutting-edge energy solutions was going to be pivotal in demonstrating how hydrogen could competitively fulfil clean energy expectations.

Countries with favourable renewable-energy environments, such as South Africa, which has superior sun, prime wind, abundant land and an endowment of platinum-group metals, could evolve into supply hubs of commercially competitive hydrogen fuel or hydrogen power, and continue to play a central role in energy supply in a world demanding decarbonisation.

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