Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga has called for incentives to reward those that use cleaner fuels as a measure to reduce air pollution, which affects human health and the environment.
“Vehicle subsidies may be offered, for example, towards buyers of compressed natural gas (CNG) buses and electric and hydrogen run vehicles. Additionally, fare subsidies are known to attract more numbers of commuters from the use of private cars,” Chikunga said on Monday in Pretoria.
Addressing the 41st annual Southern African Transport Conference (SATC 2023), she said the contribution of road transport to the Republic of South Africa’s (RSA’s) Greenhouse emissions (GHG) has increased to 95.7% in 2023.
“Road transport is said to be the highest polluter due to its overwhelming impacts. There are almost 13 million vehicles (12,969,430) on South African roads, 32% (4,158,818) of which are goods vehicles.
“In environmental terms, it is documented that in 2018, road transport alone was responsible for 91.2% of South Africa’s Green House Gas emissions. Other modes such as aviation, maritime and rail accounted for 5%, 2.2% and 1.6%, respectively,” the Minister said.
The National Department of Transport (DoT) is tasked with drafting policy and legislation, which in turn must guide the planning and the building of resilient systems to tackle global transport externalities.
“However, agreeing on policies that will enable internalisation of social costs from GHG emissions globally is no easy task, with differences between the more developed and the less developed countries.
“As the government, we may have to improve the design of incentives to reward those whose transport production or consumption activities result in positive externalities.
“Taxes or subsidies are here imposed so that private costs absolve society’s full costs and benefits accruing from a transaction. Imposing taxes and subsidies, however, require lots of data towards establishing the true outcomes,” Chikunga said.
She added subsidies might also be used to influence consumer choices to opt for more environmentally friendly transport modes.
“Policies may be put in place to subsidise capital expenditure, as well as operational expenditure related to public passenger transport. Modal subsidies for public transport buses, railways and taxis may be offered.
“It should be noted that to these ends, we have already embarked on a process of developing and implementing a public transport subsidy whose benefits must accrue most importantly to the consumer of public transport,” the Minister said.
These actions are intended to stimulate the increased use of less intrusive transport modes when given subsidies.
In addition, fuel economy standards could be set to capture the mileage travelled per unit of fuel consumed.
She also suggested regulation on emission standards, which may be set to impose a limit on the amount of exhaust that a vehicle happens to be giving off in its tailpipe.
Fuel quality standards may be instituted to limit polluting elements in a fuel type, e.g., lead in petrol and sulphur in diesel.
The Minister’s call comes as the international community prepares to commemorate Mandela Day, which is calling for a focus on dismantling poverty and inequality by acting against climate change and creating resilient food environments.
Mandela Day is an annual global celebration that takes place on 18 July to honour the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela. This day is a call to action for individuals, communities, and organisations to take time to reflect on Mandela’s values and principles and to make a positive impact in their own communities.