* S.Africa takes aim at top polluters
* New climate policy to give leverage at global talks
(Adds minister's comments in par 11-13)
By Wendell Roelf
CAPE TOWN, Oct 18 South Africa plans to place
limits for carbon emissions on top polluters who may face
penalties if they do not conform to the new regulations, a
climate policy paper showed on Tuesday.
Africa's biggest economy wants to cut CO2 emissions by 34
percent over the next decade but has little flexibility to make
fast changes with major employers among the top polluters and
its cash-strapped power sector almost fully reliant on coal.
The government said the planned emissions cap, marking a
more assertive state approach, will provide some flexibility and
carbon offset initiatives, but transgressors could be fined.
"It's like a speeding fine -- if you go over the speed
limit, you get caught, you get busted and fined," Peter Lukey,
acting deputy director general at the Department of
Environmental Affairs told Reuters.
He said the limits, to be set up within the next two years,
would focus on key sectors such as electricity, fuels, and the
mining and transport industries. Targeted companies and sectors
will need to submit plans on how they plan to tackle emissions.
"The policy as it is, is do-able and viable, although a key
concern is implementation. There are no fixed targets at this
stage but the objectives are ambitious," Johan Muller, industry
analyst at Frost and Sullivan consultancy, told Reuters.
The national climate policy, approved by cabinet last week,
also aims at balancing South Africa's climate agenda with its
ambition to reduce a chronic 25 percent unemployment rate.
A mooted carbon tax plan proposed earlier this year was
already criticised for hurting South Africa's job creation
plans, putting the government in a bind ahead of hosting a
global climate summit later this year.
"Government will assess the vulnerability of the different
economic sectors to climate change and develop sector job
resilience plans," the policy paper said.
More than 1 million jobs have been shed since South Africa's
recession in 2009.
Minister for Environmental and Water Affairs, Edna Molewa
said she believed the policy, to be reviewed every five years
for additional regulatory or legislative amendments, would
strengthen South Africa's negotiating position at the COP 17
global climate summit to be held later this year.
"The policy as concluded now is really going to give quite a
whole lot of leverage... As one of the high emitters of the
world, we are taking action," Molewa told reporters.
Officials and analysts have muted expectations of the summit
to agree on game-changing results capable of producing a new
and binding pact to slash greenhouse gases.
Power utility Eskom and petrochemicals group Sasol ,
which collectively pump out more than half of the country's
annual carbon dioxide emissions of around 500 million tonnes,
are the nation's main polluters.
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan is also expected to mention
climate change when he presents his medium-term budget on Oct.
25, with additional incentives to encourage and reward efforts
to curb emissions on the table.
South Africa plans to cut emissions by 34 percent and 42
percent below its 'business as usual' emission growth trajectory
by 2020 and 2025 respectively.
Already, the state has introduced an electricity generation
levy, a motor vehicle emissions tax and a levy on incandescent
light bulbs to prompt consumers towards a greener future.
A water-scarce country, most of South Africa's emissions
derive from energy supply, with about 85 percent of the
country's electricity generated by coal-fired power stations.
(Editing by Agnieszka Flak)