Car use could offset SA's emission reduction measures

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pretoria - The growing use of vehicles in South Africa and the aging of the national vehicle fleet is likely to offset planned and proposed national emission reduction measures that are aimed at regulating fuel composition.

This is according to the State of the Air Report, released by the Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs Rejoice Mabudafhasi on Monday.

The report, commissioned to give an overview of the state of South Africa's air quality as well as give a baseline of the levels of air pollution in the country, found that the issues facing the country's air pollution were associated to the transportation sector, particularly road use.

This was due to growing vehicle use while the aging of the national vehicle fleet was projected to offset planned and proposed national emission reduction measures that are aimed at regulating fuel composition and new vehicle technology.

The report also noted that inhalation exposure to household coal and wood emissions remained the most serious as well as pressing national air pollution problem. This was estimated to result in direct health spending.

Persistent health risks were also attributed to the close proximity of heavy industries and communities. The situation is exacerbated by increased pressure to place residential areas within former industrial and mining buffer zones.

Additionally, high ambient sulphur dioxide (S02) and concentrations of fine particular matter due primarily to fuel combustion with household, industrial and power generation sectors represented continued air pollution.

The report, which is a first of its kind for the country, noted that South Africa was sensitive to global climate change because of the rise in the frequency and intensity of droughts and floods.

The country's national total CO2 equivalent emissions were reported to have increased by 9.4 percent from 1990 to 1994.

"This growth was due primarily to the significant rise in greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector, whose contribution increased from 75 percent to 78 percent during this time," said the department.

According to the report, the three sectors that contributed most to the rise were the energy, industry and transport sectors.

Pressing challenges identified by the report include understanding and addressing the risks to human health posed by exposure to air-borne hazardous materials; mitigating air pollution impacts that disproportionately affect low income communities as well as reducing industrial emissions without detrimental effects on society and the economy.

The report comes as a result of the implementation of the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act (No.39 of 2004) (AQA).

The deputy minister said the report provided detailed work for South Africans who want to know more about their air.

"It provides a detailed reference work for all South Africans who want to know more about the air they breathe and, in so-doing, aims to deepen our democracy by providing the means for informed participatory air quality governance," she said.