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28 Aug 2001 00:00
Cape Town | Tuesday
SOUTH Africa would be in deep trouble if developing countries were suddenly called upon to make a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, the National Assembly’s minerals and energy and environmental affairs committees heard on Tuesday.
Addressing members at a one-day workshop on climate change, an expert in the field, Harald Winkler, said one of South Africa’s biggest problems was its highly emissions-intensive economy in comparison with other developing countries.
He also said that among the threats climate change posed to South Africa was a possible decrease in its coal exports.
Winkler is a researcher with the University of Cape Town’s energy and development research centre (EDRC).
“Compared to industrialised countries, South Africa puts out three times as much CO2 (carbon dioxide) to produce one dollar (US) of economic output.
“Other developing countries, such as China, India and Brazil, are much lower.”
Referring to figures showing CO2 emissions per capita, Winkler said that in this regard South Africa was “more comparable to an industrialised country, rather than a developing one”.
Compared to China, India and Brazil, local emission levels were between four and eight times as high.
It was essential these be reduced, Winkler said.
“South Africa is in a difficult position, but acting now will make (reduced emissions)... easier to achieve.
“We cannot afford to wait until we are pressurised into a commitment… we need to become proactive on climate change.
“If any commitment is required of developing countries in future, South Africa is in deep trouble.”
About 80 percent of local emissions of CO2, methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) the major greenhouse gases contributing to climate change were related to energy use.
Winkler told members South Africa needed a strategy that: promoted national development priorities; proactively engaged in the climate debate; took into account long-term implications of choices made today; protected both local interests and the global environment; and, linked sustainable development and climate change issues.
On the effect of climate change on future coal exports, Winkler said if industrialised countries limited their emissions and bought less coal, South African coal exports might decrease.
This would lead to a downturn and job losses in coal-mining.
South Africa is the world’s number two exporter of hard coal. - Sapa
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