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South African Carbon Tax

Source: IEA/IRENA Renewables Policies Database
Last updated: 30 June 2020

It is a tax aimed at businesses and companies that emit a high level of carbon, polluting the atmosphere. Industries which rely on fuel consumption and electricity generation are the most frequent offenders. It has been on the table since 2015 as a draft bill from Parliament.


The President has signed into law the Carbon Tax Act No 15 of 2019, which comes into effect from 1 June 2019, as announced by the Minister of Finance in the 2019 Budget. The Act was gazetted on 23 May 2019 (Gazette No. 42483), together with the Customs and Excise Amendment Act No. 13 of 2019 (Gazette No. 42480).


The Carbon Tax Act gives effect to the polluter-pays-principle for large emitters and helps to ensure that firms and consumers take the negative adverse costs (externalities) into account in their future production, consumption and investment decisions. Firms are incentivized towards adopting cleaner technologies over the next decade and beyond.

The carbon tax will initially only apply to scope 1 emitters in the first phase. The first phase will be from 1 June 2019 to 31 December 2022, and the second phase from 2023 to 2030.


The design of the carbon tax also provides significant tax-free emission allowances ranging from 60 per cent to 95 per cent in this first phase. This includes a basic tax-free allowance of 60 per cent for all activities, a 10 per cent process and fugitive emissions allowance, a maximum 10 per cent allowance for companies that use carbon offsets to reduce their tax liability, a performance allowance of up to 5 per cent for companies that reduce the emissions intensity of their activities, a 5 per cent carbon budget allowance for complying with the reporting requirements and a maximum 10 per cent allowance for trade exposed sectors.


The introduction of the carbon tax will also not have any impact on the price of electricity for the first phase. This will result in a relatively modest carbon tax rate ranging from R6 to R48 per tonne of CO2 equivalent emitted, which is a relatively low tax rate to further provide current significant emitters time to transition their operations to cleaner technologies through investments in energy efficiency, renewables and other low carbon measures.


A review of the impact of the tax will be conducted before the second phase, after at least three years of implementation of the tax, and will take into account the progress made to reduce GHG emissions in line with our NDC Commitments. Future changes to rates and tax-free thresholds in the Carbon Tax will follow after the review, and be subject to the normal transparent and consultative processes for all tax legislation, after any appropriate Budget announcements by the Minister of Finance

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