South Africa: Greenhouse gas emissions up 10% in 17 years

Developing countries like South Africa emit much less per capita than developed economies; hence chances of emissions shooting up is higher

By Madhumita Paul
Published: Friday 27 August 2021

South Africa’s emitted 482,016.4 gigagram carbon dioxide and equivalents (Gg CO2e) in 2017, up 10.4 per cent over greenhouse gases the country released in 2000.

The country’s seventh National GHG inventory report 2000 to 2017 was published by the ministry of forestry, fisheries and the environment August 24, 2021.

There was an increasing trend in emissions in the energy, industrial processes and product use (IPPU) as well as waste sectors, said the report.

The study covered all major greenhouses gases: CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, perfluorocarbons, hydrofluorocarbons and indirect greenhouse gases such as carbon monoxide and oxides of nitrogen.

Sulphur hexafluoride emissions had not been included in the report because of a lack of data available, said the department of forestry, fisheries and environment.

The report was published as part of South Africa’s commitment in terms of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which required countries to not only address climate change but also monitor trends in anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

Emissions were recorded from four sectors: Energy, IPPU, agriculture, forestry and other land use (AFOLU) as well as waste. 

The decrease in net emissions from the AFOLU sector was due to an increasing land sink. There was an annual average increase of 2 per cent between 2000 and 2009. Then emissions stabilised and declined at an average annual rate of 1 per cent, according to the report.

The energy sector contributed 78 per cent of the total GHG emissions, IPPU 7 per cent, AFOLU 12 per cent and waste 3 per cent in 2000. In 2017, energy contributed 80.1 per cent, IPPU 6.3 per cent, AFOLU 9.5 per cent and waste 4.1 per cent. 

The energy sector was the main contributor, accounting for 58.7 per cent of emissions from the energy sector. The other major components were transport (13 per cent) as well as manufacturing industries and construction (6.9 per cent).

Major findings of the report:

  • CO2 emission was the greatest among all the gases (excluding from forestry and other land use). Its share increased very slightly from 82.6 per cent in 2000 to 84.8 per cent in 2017. 
  • The energy sector was by far the largest contributor to CO2 emissions, contributing an average of 92 per cent between 2000 and 2017.
  • Energy emissions 26.1 per cent in this period. Peak emissions were reached in 2013, after which there was a 2.4 per cent decline till 2015, and an increase of 0.5 per cent between 2015 and 2017.
  • Estimated emissions from the IPPU sector in 2017 are 26.9 per cent higher than the emissions in 2000. This was mainly due to the 17.9 per cent increase in the metal industry emissions.
  • In 2017, the waste sector produced 21,249 Gg CO2e. The emissions from the waste sector increased 56.7 per cent from the 13,558 Gg CO2e in 2000. Solid waste disposal was the main contributor to these emissions.

The findings of the report support policy development and decision-making for a viable climate change mitigation aiding South Africa to transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient society as outlined in the National Development Plan’s Vision 2030, according to the environment ministry. 

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