Cheryl Kahla
Deputy Online News Editor
3 minute read
22 Apr 2022
4:17 pm

Climate change: SA’s middle class responsible for increased transport-related carbon emissions

Cheryl Kahla

As per the IPCC's most recent report, South Africa could mitigate the impact of climate change by implementing these measures.

Rush hour traffic on Von Wiellig Street and Commissioner Street in Johannesburg. Photo: iStock

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) most recent report shows global greenhouse gas emissions must be halved within the next eight years to limit warming to around 1.5°C.

As per the IPCC, this is the first report “to provide an in-depth assessment of how human behaviour, choices and consumption can contribute to climate change mitigation.

IPCC’s Climate Change report

Personal accountability

The report highlights what can be done to limit and prevent the “human-caused emissions which cause global warming”.

It also examines all aspects of society, from how we use energy to power our homes to how sustainable our buildings are and how cities are planned.

The comprehensive report drives home the need for personal accountability as it looks at our culture and lifestyle choices, the ways in which we travel, the foods we eat, the land we live on.

Impact of SA’s urban middle class

In South Africa (and similarly in India, Brazil, and Turkey), urban middle- and high-income households are responsible for a “high share of transport-related carbon emissions”.

In order to mitigate these effects, South Africa’s long term goals “could be achieved with the accelerated adoption of solar PV (photovoltaics) and wind generation”.

The report shows that this would only be sustainable if the electricity sector “decarbonises by phasing-out coal entirely by 2050, even if CCS is not feasible before 2025”, the report shows.

National Development Plan (NDP)

SA’s first National Development Plan (NDP) – initially adopted in 2011 – addresses environmental sustainability in the context of development planning, and specifically “an equitable transition to a low-carbon economy”.

The plan is designed to ensure a “just transition” which would protect the poor “from impacts and any transitional costs from emissions-intensive to low-carbon”.

“The plan proposes several mitigation measures, including a carbon budgeting approach, reference to Treasury’s carbon tax, use of various low carbon options while maintaining energy security, and the integrated resource plan for electricity.”

“The NDP refers to coal in several chapters, in some places suggesting additional investment (including new rail lines to transport coal and coal to liquids).

The IPCC report can be viewed here.

Global climate change impacts

Increased flooding in US

Weather Channel Meteorologist, Ari Sarsalari, said sea levels are rising twice as fast during the 21st century as it did in the 20th century.

He adds: “Some US coastal areas are seeing high tides flooding about nine times more often than about half a century ago”.

Two climate change-related factors are driving the exponential rise. These are:

  • Ice sheets are melting faster as the globe warms than ever before.
  • As ocean water gets warmer, it expands.

Approximately 30% of the US population live among coastlines, and “those areas are already seeing more catastrophic flooding, as the higher average sea levels push storm surges could farther inland.

Extreme heatwaves in Europe

Meanwhile, as per the fifth European State of the Climate report published on Friday, Europe’s “summer of floods and fire” was the hottest on record.

This follows an intense, weeks-long heatwave during July and August last year.

Coupled with that, Turkey and Greece experienced devastating wildfires, and more than 800,000 hectares were burned during those two months.