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Carbon Tax Act jumps scientific boundaries

The absurdity of a megawatt of capacity resulting in a gaseous emission.
Different government departments using different definitions doesn’t help either. Image: Carla Gottgens, Bloomberg

A carbon tax had been on the cards for some time. After all, National Treasury and the South African Revenue Service (Sars) were at their wits’ end in finding another tax source. Pressed for time, the short, shoddily written Carbon Tax Act (CTA) came into effect on June 1, 2019.

Read: Carbon tax: Three ways SA businesses can save, and even earn

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The Act should be piggybacking onto the regulations that brought the National Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Inventory into being. It doesn’t. The CTA provides that the taxpayer is only liable to register carbon tax if its resulting greenhouse gases are above a specified threshold.

Incomprehensibly, the threshold for many activities is expressed in megawatt capacity.

Herein lies the contradiction – while the operative section of the CTA imposes an obligation to register only if greenhouse gas emissions exceed the given threshold, the thresholds themselves do not have anything to do with the measurement of GHG emissions. Instead, in many instances, they use technical terms that denote capacity to burn fuel, but without even mentioning that it is capacity that is being referred to.

The threshold for registration cannot be based on capacity

The CTA provides for a carbon tax to be imposed on a taxpayer (as defined in the CTA) if the taxpayer conducts an activity (not defined), and that activity results in greenhouse gas emissions “above the threshold”. The CTA includes a list of activities per the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) code, next to “thresholds” per activity.

For a commercial/institutional “activity”, the GHG emission threshold is “10 megawatt thermal”. How does a 10 megawatt thermal diesel engine result in gaseous emissions? Surely this will only occur when fuel is injected into the combustion chamber, mixes with oxygen, and ignites?

Similarly, the GHG emission threshold for brick manufacturing is one million bricks a month. Not all bricks are fired in a kiln. A cement brick comprises a mixture of a binder, sand, aggregate and water. Where are the GHG emissions?

Logically, any registration threshold must be based either on the minimum amount of fuel used/consumed/combusted in the activity, or the GHG emissions (which would be more difficult to compute).

But what Sars has done is to conflate the aforesaid types of outputs, with a metric for measuring theoretical input capacity.

It’s like saying the threshold for the activity of driving a car is a prescribed number of kilometres, as set out in the threshold section – but the threshold section refers to the size of your car’s engine, measured in cc’s.

So based on the wording of the CTA, it is unclear if you must register if you own a car with a big engine, even if the car stands in the garage all year.

Must taxpayers close their eyes to the fact that a capacity cannot be equated with an output of emissions, and register to pay carbon tax based on that fallacious assumption?

Background to the carbon tax

South Africa ratified the Paris Climate Agreement in November 2016, requiring it to maintain a National Greenhouse Gas Inventory.

The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (Deff) is responsible for updating and maintaining the Greenhouse Gas Inventory, as well as enforcing the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act, 2004.

The Deff has structured the South African National GHG emission technical guidelines for the calculation of emission sources on the IPCC guidelines. It published an excellent document, the Technical Guidelines for Monitoring, Reporting and Verification of GHG by Industry, in April 2017.

The National Greenhouse Gas Emission Reporting Regulations (NGERs) came into effect on April 3, 2017, making it mandatory for reporting parties (later clarified to be data providers), to submit GHG emission data that exceeds a predetermined threshold, in the required format, to the South African Air Quality Information System (SAAQIS).

Amendments to the GHG emission regulations were published on September 11, 2020.

The NGERs must be read with section 12 of the Air Quality Act.

Treasury guidelines

It was obvious that once GHG emissions had to be reported to a national database that the next step would be to introduce a carbon tax.

The carbon tax does not fall under the Income Tax Act, but must be read together with the Customs and Excise Act, and will be collected as an environmental levy in terms of the Customs and Excise Act.

The CTA gives a nod to the IPCC source codes, but not to the Deff, the Air Quality Act, the various regulations, nor to the technical guidelines published by the Deff.

The National Treasury Guidelines on the CTA published in November 2018 ignores most of what has been published by the Deff, and refers to the 2011 National Climate Change Response Policy document.

The guidelines do refer to the IPCC emissions measurement methodologies, but do not give an explanation for Treasury/Sars to have invented a capacity threshold requirement.

The confusion continues …

The guideline also confusingly states that “companies will have to use the same methodology to report their emissions to both [the] Deff and Sars.…”

Had Treasury studied the reporting regulations issued by the Deff it would have noted that the reporting entity of the GHG emissions, defined as the data provider, would be the group (filing on behalf of all its subsidiaries et cetera) – whereas the taxpayer, under the CTA, is not a group.

The CTA defines the taxpayer responsible for paying the carbon tax as a ‘person’, which includes an individual and a company, but never a group, and for purposes of the CTA would also include a partnership, trust, municipal entity, and a public institution.

Essentially, it is intended that the group will file GHG emissions as the data provider to SAAQIS, and the individual companies to Sars (depending on the threshold requirement).

Read: Carbon Tax: Dangers and opportunities 

Just another tax

It would have been helpful if National Treasury and Sars had worked together with the Deff to introduce a carbon tax that used the same definitions as the Deff, where the Sars data could be reconciled with the data collected by the Deff, and had as its objective reducing national GHG emissions.

But why should government departments work together?



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You are trying to introduce a modicum of understanding of the difference between power and emissions, which the enactors of this law are clearly lacking. Calling this science is an exaggeration. This should be understood by anyone with a half-decent education. Something which is also sorely lacking.

Indeed. Science is deeply offended. But let’s just call it the Dunning-Kruger Effect, shake one’s head and look for the next laugh – before we cry in desperation.

Clearly written up by friends of the regime an ratified by the idiots in charge.
After all science is such a colonial thing ne!

There seems to be a recuring confusion here. Just as there is no conclusive proof that the lockdown curbed the covid 19 pandemic,(Sweden with no lockdown has the lowest number of infections in Europe), there is similarly no proof that the introduction of a carbon tax will reduce the carbon emissions in the atmosphere.
The truth is, as stated in the article, that this is just another desperate attempt to get more money into the exchequer.

Money into the exchequer from all except connected cadres and taxi drivers.


your science about sweden and covid is exactly as accurate as your opinion on climate change. Sweden was an unmitigated covid disaster. Their death rate is between 8 and 30 times that of finland, denmark, norway, iceland, etc

Most of the wild IPCC claims have simply failed to materialise.

Consider these facts:

The IPCC continued to publish images of Mann’s fraudulent Hockey Stich long after it was debunked.

The IPCC admits to cherry picking data (fraud). At the 2006 NAS panel workshop, Rosanne D’Arrigo famously told the surprised panellists that you had to pick cherries if you want to make cherry pie. Again in 2009 (though not noticed at the time), D’Arrigo et al 2009 stated that they could “partially circumvent” the divergence problem by only using data that “went up”.

The IPCC published graphs of stochastic data that use cherry picked starting points to “prove” warming.

Q: Why are the SA government even listening to these charlatans?

Q: Are the controlling the weather or are the controlling you?

I’m all for a clean planet with all the benefits that come with it, but there is no scientific evidence that CO2 causes ‘global warming’.

When the evidence did not support their claim, governments/organisations created a new euphemism, ‘climate change’. Major cities and island were supposed to be under water many years ago already. This is effectively a ‘blank cheque’ to attribute any weather phenomenon (hot, cold, drought, flood, fires, snow in the Sahara, etc, etc.) to be blamed on humanity and therefore a blank cheque for taxes.

If we all pay carbon tax then we can all feel less guilty, while the politicians travel in cavalcades, fly 1st class to Davos each year for a celebration to pat each other on the back, and have a laugh at spending tax payer money faster than you can say ‘thieves’.

Thankfully the ANC couldn’t run a bath, so unlike Europe, SA’s SMMEs are for the moment spared yet further tightening of the noose around their necks.

Of course, if you switch the clean energy don’t forget to pay your tax on that too. The City of Cape Town owns the sunlight, meaning you are required to register and pay a registration fee for your solar panels.

Gosh, politicians sure are good at keeping their populations distracted whilst stripping them bare.

Did humans cause the last 5 ice ages or the end of the ice ages? Asking for a friend who think Carbon Tax has everything to do with saving the planet and nothing to do with just accumulating money under a false pretence.

Also please don’t ask the Democrats in California whether or not the wildfires there are due to climate change or arson. I’m sure they would hate to admit to having arrested people for arson. They would rather you just listen to Greta Thunberg.


“gaseous emissions” *lol*

Now, how much gas am I (personally) allowed in my own office, before I breach the threshold of our National Greenhouse Gas (GHG) rules, which after I need to register as an individual gaseous emitter??

(…that’s why, in MY office, there is at least one WINDOW LEFT OPEN…even in winter, and even visitors do not dwell for long 😉 For my visitors, Covid-masks are also of little use against my gaseous emissions!)

End of comments.



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