South African parliament approves long-delayed carbon tax bill

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South Africa’s parliament approved on Tuesday a long-delayed carbon tax bill as it seeks to reduce harmful carbon emissions in Africa’s most industrialized and polluting country.

Big energy users including Sibanye-Stillwater and ArcelorMittal’s local unit have opposed plans by South Africa to enact carbon tax laws in 2019, arguing the levies are unaffordable and should be scrapped or delayed.

“Climate change poses the greatest threat facing humankind and South Africa intends to play its role as part of the global effort to reduce global greenhouse emissions,” Mondli Gungubele, the deputy finance minister told parliament.

The carbon tax has already been postponed at least three times since first being mooted in 2010, after mining companies, steel firms and state-owned power utility Eskom said it would erode profits and push up electricity prices.

The new law allows a tax rate of 120 rand ($8.48) per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent and states that total tax-free allowances during the first phase until around 2022 can be as high as 95 percent.

South Africa ratified the Paris climate change pact three years ago and has pledged to cut emissions by almost half by 2030, when they are seen peaking between 398 and 614 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by Tiisetso Motsoeneng and Emelia Sithole-Matarise