South Africa’s answer to the ‘banning’ of petrol cars: more taxes

In July of this year, the United Kingdom said that it would ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by the year 2040.

Speaking at the time, the UK’s environment secretary Michael Gove said that the decision was made as part of the government’s push to embrace new technology and address growing concerns of air pollution in the country.

Gove further indicated that it would be giving £200 million to local authorities to draw up plans to tackle particular roads with high pollution.

The ban follows a similar promise by French president Emmanuel Macron who made the same promise, and several other countries have also officially committed themselves to the time-frame to cut out petrol and diesel cars altogether.

In South Africa meanwhile, the Department of Transport last week published its “Draft Green Transport strategy” revealing how it plans to make the country’s roads and transport industry more environmentally friendly.

5% reduction by 2050

In his foreword to the report, Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi said that South Africa was committed to providing a world class transportation system that reduces both the cost transportation, the quantity of Green House Gases (GHG) and other pollutants that are emitted by the sector.

Citing a 2010 DEA report, Maswanganyi  said that emissions from the transport sector account for 10.8% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions, with road transport being responsible for 10.2% of these GHG emissions.

“In 2010, the transport sector was responsible for 10.8% of energy related emissions,” he said.

“Should these trends continue in the absence of mitigating legislation and policies, the transport sector is projected to emit a total of 136 Cg CO2 eq by the year 2050.”

Read: A ban on diesel and petrol cars – not anytime soon in SA

Maswanganyi  said that his department would aim to make a significant impact in reducing GHG emissions by committing to a 5% reduction of emissions in the transport sector by 2050.

“Introducing change for the transport sector will be a challenging and costly exercise, especially when it comes to innovative industries or sectors where long -term investments needs to be made such in order to move the transport sector to becoming low carbon intensive,” the report said.

“While the government can set appropriate policies, it is ultimately up to the private sector to buy into the large-scale uptake of green transport.

“As such, the policy framework as set by government should be supported by various drivers, enablers and barriers as perceived by the private sector. In practice, green transport enablers, barriers and drivers are typically placed in the context of social, economic and environmental impact.”

The plan for cars

The report focuses on a number of areas including freight, rail, and aviation, but states that the road transport sector contributes approximately 91% of total transport green-house gas emissions.

“One of the primary intervention mechanisms to achieve this, is through freight achieving modal shifts in the transport of freight from road to rail, and from private vehicle use to public transport and ecomobility transport for passenger transport,” it said.

To achieve these modal shifts, the report stated that significant investment needs to take place in the following areas:

  • Bus rapid transit (BRT) systems need to be significantly expanded throughout the large cities and the security, reliability and frequency of BRT systems improved.
  • Infrastructure must be innovatively upgraded to allow the minibus taxi industry (or high occupancy vehicles such as carpooling initiatives) to utilize the BRT-only lanes.
  • An intelligent transport system must be developed where all public transport and the minibus industry can be monitored by metropolitan control centers through GPS, GIS and IoT connectivity.
  • A single ticketing system will be developed where the public can utilize a smart tag as the payment mechanism. The smart tag will be swiped on entry and exit of the public transport system. The smart tag may also be used in the taxi industry.
  • Non-motorised transport infrastructure, namely the building of cycle lanes along key transport routes and improved pavements and sidewalks.
  • The government will work with the private sector to expand on the current number of electric charging stations powered by renewable energy sources. Those stations will also be accessible to the general public.
  • Government will set an example for procuring energy efficient vehicles by instituting “Procurement Guidelines” for the government vehicle fleet.
  • The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and DoT, will develop a “rehabilitation plan” focusing on a tree planting initiative within and around major cities, with emphasis of replanting trees especially after the construction of transport infrastructure.
  • DoT in partnership with Department of Basic Education will include in the lower education curriculum, a module, under life science subject about green transport and innovation.

New laws and taxes

The Department of Transport said it would prepare the following regulations to encourage the modal shift from road to rail and from private vehicle use to public transport:

  • A congestion charge on vehicles that enter central business hubs.
  • A review of the current levels of the environmental levy on new motor vehicle CO2 emissions and expand the tax to include commercial vehicles.
  • Annual taxing of vehicles based on their emissions through the annual car licensing renewal system.
  • Added tax to new fuel car buyers, use that money to contribute to the cost of buying green vehicles to bring the price down. This will include relaxing taxes associated with green vehicles to further reduce the price to below the petrol or diesel cars.
  • A test on vehicles that covers roadworthiness and exhaust emissions. The test certificate with need to be produced every 3 years of car licensing renewal and the test scores will be used to adjudicate a price relative to safety and emissions performance.
  • Introduce a car life cycle limits on the road, i.e. a car with an engine more than 400,000km must be burned from the road.
  • Regulations to ensure that freight vehicles (trucks) may only enter urban hubs during off hours.
  • Research will be conducted into the staggering school and work times to relieve congestion in cities.
  • Freight permits will be re-introduced into South Africa with permit pricing reflecting the emissions for tonne cargo of freight vehicles, etc

Read: Transport minister distances himself from e-tolls ‘dismal failure’ report

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South Africa’s answer to the ‘banning’ of petrol cars: more taxes