Industry response to climate change typically focuses on the management of carbon. Less focus has been placed on the sector’s vulnerability to a changing climate and the appropriate response efforts. Strategically the industry requires a long planning horizon of up to 50 years that takes into account future conditions for business sustainability and growth. It recognises that climate change is an important future reality that needs to form a critical part of future planning, with respect to both mitigation and adaptation.
Energy and carbon efficiency at mill level implies that the pulp and papermaking industry has the potential, along with carbon sequestration by its timber plantations, to be a key contributor to reducing South Africa’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Our industry focuses on continuously improving the way it operates in order to minimise the acceleration of climate change. PAMSA members acknowledge the opportunity to maximise their positive role in reducing the rate of climate change. This can be done through forest-based carbon sequestration, promoting energy efficiency within operations and by producing bio-energy either for their own use or more widely for the South African electrical power distribution network.
Priority actions for climate change
Through PAMSA, the South African pulp and paper industry has committed to:
- Engaging government on the carbon positives of plantation forests which are not widely understood. PAMSA petitions government on the relative carbon benefits of plantation forestry (compared with other land uses), especially under future climate change scenarios. This enables decision-makers to understand that protecting plantation forestry and expanding it is a sensible economic and sustainable development decision and is critical from a climate change perspective, especially where that expansion does not threaten food crops.
- Driving bio-energy leadership. PAMSA continues to seek opportunities to intensify its bio-energy generation position. This entails both increasing its internal energy generation potential and working with other organisations to build the bio-energy sector.
Emissions reduction and carbon tax
- South Africa is addressing climate change through several national policies and legislative changes and has set a national goal to reduce emissions by 34% below ‘business as usual’ levels by 2020, and by 42% by 2025.
The South African government plans to introduce carbon tax in 2018 and carbon budgets are in the process of being finalised. Although the agriculture, forestry, and other land use and waste sectors are exempt for the first five years of implementation, PAMSA is actively involved.
- The industry is negotiating with the government to take into account carbon sequestration by plantation forests when calculating carbon tax liability. PAMSA members are actively pursuing cogeneration and selling energy back to the national grid but are experiencing challenges with government implementation. Currently the agreement is that all companies emitting more than 0.1 million tonnes (Mt) of C02 per annum, will be liable for tax. If one company in any given sector exceeds the agreed limit, then all companies in that sector will be subject to tax but will only pay if they exceed the specified threshold.
If it were not for the pulp and paper industry operating worldwide for the last 150 years, CO₂ levels in the atmosphere would be 5% higher (about half a degree in Celsius) than they are at present.
National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, Special Report No 07-02. The greenhouse gas and carbon profile of the global forest products industry, February 2007
Sequestration factor included in revised Draft Carbon Tax Bill
In 2015, the National Treasury announced that it had included carbon sequestration in the Draft Carbon Tax Bill. The draft bill was issued on 2 November 2015 for public comment. PAMSA and its industry members believe that the inclusion of sequestration in the carbon tax calculation and small afforestation as an offset are an acknowledgment by the South African government that the forest products sector plays a vital role in mitigating the effects of carbon emissions and climate change. The industry’s carbon offsets (defined as a measurable avoidance, reduction or sequestration of CO2 or other GHG emissions) include the sequestration or absorption of CO₂ by trees (planted for the manufacture of paper products) as well as the use of biomass-based energy.