Carbon tax laggards may pay dearly, cautions environmental firm | Fin24

Carbon tax laggards may pay dearly, cautions environmental firm

Jan 12 2017 17:57

Cape Town - Some mid-sized companies not generally viewed as big polluters could end up paying more carbon tax than mining, manufacturing and metals-processing players with larger carbon dioxide (CO2) footprints, warns sustainability consultancy ERM South Africa. 

National Treasury previously indicated that a carbon tax will be implemented in early 2017. 

David Mercer, Durban-based technical director at ERM said in a statement that the initial phase of government's proposed carbon tax only covers fossil fuel combustion emissions, fugitive emissions and industrial process emissions. Sectors that will be most affected include electricity, mining and manufacturing.

“Proposed allowances create the theoretical potential for well-prepared companies with major exposure to reduce their tax bill to a level below that of somewhat smaller entities that fail to take advantage of government proposals."

READ: Carbon tax: SA can't afford it - economist 

Mercer believes some businesses seem to think there is no hurry as the carbon tax legislation is only at draft stage.

“They fail to realise that monitoring and reporting systems around pollution prevention plans and carbon abatement programmes are complex to initiate and need time to bed in. Do nothing now and you will feel the tax impacts later. Those impacts could be severe.”

All businesses – not just those with major CO2 footprints – should start to position themselves for future carbon-related legislation as government is determined to honour international commitments to cut greenhouse gases. 

For the proposed carbon tax, the marginal rate is R120 per ton of CO2 emitted. However, various thresholds mean effective rates might vary from 5% (R6 a ton) to 40% (R48).

Government proposals permit:

- An initial 60% tax-free allowance to 2020 – with carbon tax levied only on 40% of emissions

- A further 10% allowance relating to process emissions

- Another 10% allowance for so-called ‘trade-exposed’ sectors

- A 5% allowance for those who prove their mitigation efforts keep CO 2 emissions lower than their industry average

- Carbon offset allowances (another 5% to 10%) for those who green the environment by investing in South Africa-based approved carbon mitigating projects

- Another 5% tax-break for companies that participate in the initial phase of carbon tax budgeting

READ: Carbon offsets will make SA economy greener 

“Taking a structured approach to carbon management and leveraging sound mitigation projects could net a bonus 15% allowance for a proactive industry. In addition to this, there are often further savings to be had by using process-specific data in calculating emissions, as opposed to making standardised emissions calculations.

“The combined benefits are undoubtedly significant, but specialist input is necessary to determine what businesses and processes are covered and how best to capture the incentives.”

Mercer says a number of corporates take a holistic approach and also opt for soft loans and income tax incentives linked to energy efficiency and continuous improvement.

“Again, big players are wide awake while many of their business peers seem oblivious to the cash they leave lying on the floor.

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