Compliance Of Emission Standards

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Various air quality management instruments have been developed over the years and such instruments include the emission standards. Variety of methods were implemented to ensure the compliance of these emission standards. These methods include:

  • Carbon dioxide vehicle emissions tax
  • Declaration of priority areas
  • Atmospheric emission licensing

Carbon dioxide vehicle emissions taxA carbon tax is an environmental tax imposed on the carbon content of fuels and is a method of pricing. Burning of fuels result to carbon dioxide being released in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is one of the greenhouse gases contributing to the treat of human induced climate change.

Emissions of greenhouse gas are the results of burning of fossil fuels that are related to the carbon content of the respective fuels they originate from. Due to this, tax of carbon can be imposed by taxing the carbon content of fossil fuels at any point in the product cycle of the fuel. In September 2010, South Africa took the initiative to implement a carbon dioxide emission tax on new passenger vehicles as part of a sustainable development initiative and climate change mitigation measure. This carbon dioxide tax currently applies to new passenger vehicles at the time of sale but will in future include commercial vehicles once carbon dioxide standards have been set for these vehicles. Vehicles that emit more than 120g/km are then hold accountable to pay a tax of R75 per g/km over this figure.

The main purpose of this carbon dioxide tax is to influence the composition of South Africa’s motor transport service to become more energy efficient and be considerate of the environment while generating their earnings and profit. However, there are concerned about the carbon dioxide tax that it will increase the price of new vehicles and reduce sales hence people will be reluctant to buy expensive cars. Therefore, this will have a negative impact on the automobile industry. It is also been argued that tax is showing unfairness and prejudice as it targets new vehicles only not the existing ones in the country. Nevertheless, the new carbon dioxide tax is expected add approximately two percent of the cost of the new vehicle and some doubt has been revealed as to whether this will have an important effect on encouraging new vehicle buyers to purchase environmentally vehicles. Declaration of priority areas in South Africa.

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Priority areas are generally areas where ambient air quality standards are being, or may be, exceeded. These areas are the Vaal Triangle Airshed Priority Area (VTAPA). The demarcation of the VTAPA includes two district municipalities and one metropolitan municipality namely Sedibeng District Municipality (Gauteng Province), Fezile Dab; District Municipality (Free State Province) and the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality (Gauteng Province). The declaration of these areas are the results of increasing high levels of pollution that are associated with industrial activities, health and negative environmental impacts. The VTAPA are characterised by the range of activities such as such as heavy industries, transportation, landfill and waste incineration and domestic fuel burning (Leaner et al. 2009). The quality of ambient air in many areas of the Republic is not productive to a healthy environment for the people living in these areas. The burden of health impacts associated with polluted ambient air falls most heavily on the poor. Air Quality Management Plans (AQMPs) have been developed with the goal of improving air quality according to the declaration of these areas. In addition, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) has been exploring means of improving the implementation of the Vaal Triangle AQMP, due to that the initiation of a medium-term review of the plan’s implementation status has resulted.

The DEA operates several ambient air quality monitoring stations in the two National Priority Areas of South Africa. These monitor priority pollutants such as particulate matter (PM10 and PM2. 5), SO2, NO2, O3, CO, Pb, benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylene (BTEX) other pollutants. The launching of various programmes aimed at reducing indoor air pollution levels was because of the fascinating response of the government to the problems of poor people using coal for cooking and heating purposes, resulting in high levels of indoor air pollution. One of the programmes is the campaign to promote the Basa njengo Magogo (BnM) fire-lighting method. The Basa njengo Magogo method is based on the principle of putting the coal first in the brazier, followed by newspaper, and then wood on top. The paper and wood are lit and when they are burning well, two handfuls of coal are added on top. The idea is that the fire burns from the top-down, improving the combustion of the coal through increased oxygen flow created by an updraft through the fire.

Smoke emitted from a BnM fire is reduced by up to 50 per cent, due to increased efficiency of the combustion of the coal (le Roux et al. 2009). This method has proved to be the less expensive technique with better results of reducing smoke caused by burning of coal. With the BnM method, the average of 87 % of particulate emissions has been obtained which is less than those of conventional bottom-up fires. As the BnM methods shows the significant decrease in the level of carbon monoxide (CO), this means that the health risk of the air that contain the particulates and carbon monoxide are reduced. However, the method does not decrease the level of carbon dioxide (le Roux et al. 2009). The method has been introduced in more than ten coal burning urban areas in Gauteng, supported by the Central Energy Fund and DEAT’s ‘Clean Fires Campaign’. Atmospheric emission licensing According to the Air Quality Act, a person who undertakes a listed activity that results to emissions in the atmosphere is required to obtain an atmospheric emissions licence (AEL) in order to lawfully perform such an activity. The minimum emission standards (ME Standards) for constituents emitted by “existing plant” or “new plant”, are set through the published list of activities that emit pollutants such as particulate matter, sulphur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen.

The timeframes within which facilities had to or must meet the ME Standards, included targeted dates, namely 1 April 2010 and 1 April 2015, unless the compliance timeframes had been postponed. The next deadline is 1 April 2020 at which existing plant must comply with new plant ME Standards. Postponements of the compliance timeframes may be granted for an existing plant for a period not exceeding five years per postponement. That does not appear to be a limit on the number of postponements that may be granted. Before the 1 April 2015 deadline, the DEA had reported that it received 37 applications for postponement. Facilities have applied for different postponements; hence they receive different postponements for the next five-year period. These five-year periods are; between 2015 and 2020 and between 2020 and 2025. During the period of before the 2015 deadline, challenges were brought against the stricter requirements; some were withdrawn as postponement applications were granted afterwards. According to the DEA, the applicants were strictly required to submit compliance road-maps that indicate when they predict to have completed their tasks regarding investments in pollution control technologies. Where the compliance timeframes were postponed in 2015, 8 existing plant will be required to comply with the existing plant ME Standards from 1 April 2020.

Where the compliance timeframes were not postponed in 2015, existing plant will be required to comply with the new plant ME Standards from 1 April 2020. Facilities that were established and operated long before the ME Standards were published, and are often referred to as “legacy” operations, are likely to require large capital expenditure to bring them into compliance with the ME Standards. This may in some instances be unviable or uneconomical considering that some facilities may require costly refurbishment. This is amidst the next phase of looming ME Standards, which take effect in 2020. The National Framework for Air Quality Management is also due to be reviewed in the next year.

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