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Emissions and Air Quality

South Africa is the largest greenhouse gas emitter on the African continent. The current policy imperative is to establish South Africa as competitive resilient carbon neutral economy. Further strategy in the form of key air quality legislation has focused on managing air pollution in the country. The ability to leverage information on greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution will be necessary to ensure that policy development and planning proceeds in such a way that it benefits greenhouse gas mitigation and air quality management.



The combustion of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas has been the dominant source of global energy. The use of this energy has enabled a variety of services that range from illumination, transportation, telecommunications and manufacturing processes and has thus been the underpinning factor for industrial development. Since the industrial revolution, carbon dioxide emissions, which is an important greenhouse gas have increased. Emissions of sulphur dioxide, particulate matter and nitrogen dioxides have also increased contributing to environmental problems such as acid rain, smog and eutrophication.

Industrial Mpumalanga

South Africa's economy has principally been shaped through the use of an energy system that is primarily dependent on the use of South Africa's large coal reserves and liquid fuel imported as crude oil. The combustion of fossil fuel is therefore a key contributing factor to both air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

In the last decade there have significant changes in the legislation governing air pollution in the country. The outdated Atmospheric Pollution Prevention Act (Act no. 45 of 1965) was replaced with the vastly revised National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act (Act No. 39 of 2004).

From a climate change perspective, in 2006 a process that aimed to assess the potential for greenhouse gas mitigation in the country began. The latest greenhouse gas inventory was used as a basis for development of the long-term mitigation scenarios (LTMS) which was in part used to guide the country's voluntary commitments to mitigation as detailed in the White Paper on National Climate Change Response.

Recent developments in the response to air quality and climate change issues in South Africa include:

Amendments to National Framework for Air Quality Management

Waterberg declared as a new priority area for air quality management

PM2.5 ambient air quality standard established

SAWS amendment bill


air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, emissions inventory, air quality, air quality management, mitigation, carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, transport, industry, energy consumption, long-term mitigation scenarios.



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