Our Treasury has finally published a draft bill introducing a carbon tax. They have been talking about it for years, and one would have hoped that had got it right by now. They haven't.
Of course, their timing couldn't be worse. The first protest came from the Chamber of Mines, which has requested a delay in the imposition of any carbon tax for five years. It deserves every support.
Our actual carbon emissions today are significantly lower than they were expected to be when the tax was first mooted. The electricity crisis has increased the cost of power, which has made us more energy efficient, so that we are doing a little more with significantly less. Our economy is struggling for lack of power, but we are emitting about 80 million tons of carbon dioxide less than we were expected to do by this time. So any nudge to do more by imposing a carbon tax could well push our economy over the edge.
Then we do not know what the outcome of the Paris discussions next month will be, but it is extremely unlikely that we will see any agreement of a legally binding nature, so there is no compulsion on us to try to cut our emissions further.
It is also unlikely that any funds will be committed to assisting developing countries such as South Africa to reduce their emissions. It is eight years since we offered reductions if we got financial help. According to recent submissions by the Department of Environment Affairs and Tourism to Parliament, we have received about R200 million in aid, but we have already committed over R260 billion to adaptation alone. Less than 0.1% aid is no aid at all. I can only conclude that the developed nations are giving no more than lip service to promised $100 billion a year meant to support such activities.
The draft Bill that has been published for comment has some extraordinary provisions. For instance, you could be taxed for burning wood, or wood waste, or biofuels. “Oh, but we will give you 100% exemption!” is the response. Really? How kind. The Bill doesn’t define fossil fuels or pollution. Yet it treats carbon dioxide, the source of all life on earth, as a pollutant.
Meanwhile, the evidence that a warmer world will be a disastrous one is lacking – while we hear daily that record X has been broken, an examination of the data for the past 150 years of warming reveals no trends of increasing frequency of anything other than warmer days - but that is just what you would expect in a warmer world.
We do not need a carbon tax now. One fears that Treasury may need more revenue, but to raise it in the name of saving the world from a disaster of the world’s making is a very bad idea.