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South African Industry Questions Climate Change Plan

Date: 09-Nov-11
Country: SOUTH AFRICA
Author: Wendell Roelf

South Africa's Chamber of Mines and petrochemicals group Sasol on Tuesday expressed reservations about the country's main climate policy paper, with industry-specific reduction targets a key concern.

Released in October, the cabinet-backed climate change plan wants limits placed on carbon emissions for top polluters, who could face penalties if they do not conform to new regulations.

"Our primary concern is centered around the introduction of fixed numbers for the PPD (peak-plateau-decline), which fundamentally changes the way in which climate change policy will be implemented nationally, and is also likely to negatively impact the international negotiations," Sasol said in a presentation.

South Africa, which hosts global climate change talks in November/December, wants to cut CO2 emissions by 34 percent over the next decade but has little room to make fast changes with major employers among top polluters and its cash-strapped power sector almost fully reliant on coal.

South Africa is a relatively big producer of the greenhouse gases linked by most scientists to climate change but capping them is tough against the backdrop of widespread joblessness and glaring income disparities.

Sasol, the world's top maker of motor fuel from coal, is South Africa's second-biggest single emitter of harmful greenhouse gases, behind power utility Eskom.

Miners BHP Billiton, Anglo American and steelmaker ArcelorMittal are also among the top emitters in Africa's largest economy.

The Chamber of Mines said it seemed as if the government had reneged on previous agreements not to include any reduction targets until its implications on industry were clarified.

"We find that the Department of Environmental Affairs has gone back on its word and has included numbers that are still in discussion, including whether the baseline that informed these numbers were correct," the chamber said in a presentation.

Mining remains key to the economy of South Africa, the world's largest platinum producer.

Planned emissions caps are likely to be set within the next two years and would focus on key sectors such as electricity, fuels, mining and transport. Targeted companies and sectors will need to submit plans on how they plan to tackle emissions.

The mooted carbon tax plan proposed earlier this year was already criticized for hurting South Africa's job creation plans.

(Editing by Ed Stoddard and Alison Birrane)

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