Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

The Gupta saga has drowned out news of a remarkable decision by our government to declare carbon dioxide emissions as pollution (Government Gazette No.40996, July 21). If you emit more than 100,000 tonnes of equivalent carbon dioxide a year, then you must develop a pollution-prevention plan and must monitor and report on its implementation.

It sounds so eminently reasonable. The problem becomes apparent when you examine who in SA emits more than 100,000 tonnes? Each one of us emits on average about half a tonne a year.

The Comrades athletes do about 2.5 tonnes. If the race gets up to 40,000 runners, the organisers will have to develop a pollution-prevention plan.

This sounds ridiculous, but consider the problem faced by Eskom or Sasol or the cement industry. Their operations cannot help but produce carbon dioxide.

They are all striving for maximum economic efficiency. In Eskom’s case, this means running stations as efficiently as possible, with the lowest possible emissions.

Now it is being asked to come up with a plan to lower them further. It can’t produce much more renewable energy — the stuff is already costing too much. It can’t build nuclear plants — it doesn’t have the capital. There are few hydropower possibilities. The new regulations create a Catch 22 situation.

The excuse given for this idiocy is that we have signed up for the Paris Agreement. However, it is not just Trumpean America that is having problems with Paris — it was reported in the August 1 edition of Nature that "no major advanced industrialised country is on track to meet its pledges to control the greenhouse-gas emissions that cause climate change. Wishful thinking and bravado are eclipsing reality".

Our own policy is based on a peak-plateau-decline scenario that was the product of wishful thinking. It is time to re-examine our policy in the light of other nations’ problems in meeting the targets they set themselves.

Prof Philip LloydCape Peninsula University of Technology

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