South Africa launches its first Green Transport Strategy!

27 Jun 2019

The transport sector is the most rapidly growing source of Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) in the country, and the second most significant source of GHG emissions. Continued growth within the transport sector, is likely to have an increasing impact on biodiversity, air quality, land resources and water quality. Especially in urban centres, transport is a major contributor to air pollution and emissions that include nitrous oxides and particulates, which contribute to the brown haze seen in many of South Africa’s major cities. This is partly attributed to the high-energy intensity in the sector, which relies on imported fossil-based oil, and locally-produced synthetic fuels. The transport sector accounts for 10.8% of greenhouse gas emissions, with road transport responsible for 91.2%[1].  These pollutants have a significant impact on human health, increasing risks of heart diseases, respiratory diseases, lung cancer, and low birth weight (including others) – with children and the elderly, who are particularly vulnerable. This places an even greater burden on the healthcare system with substantial medical costs.

To address the challenge of increasing GHG, the Department of Transport (DoT) launched the Green Transport Strategy (GTS)[2] in 2018. The department set a number of goals that it intends to achieve in an effort to address these challenges through the GTS - marking the need for real change within the transport sector both urgent and imperative.

Formation and Approach of the Green Transport Strategy

The GTS was formed with the aim to promote a transport system that is not only environmentally friendly but also one that helps to boost economic growth and creates jobs. Primary and Secondary research was used to develop the strategy. Primary research included gathering and collating information and inputs from an expert reference group, as well as inter-Governmental stakeholder and implementation workshops whereas the secondary research consisted of desktop research involving both national and international literature reviews, as well as extensive stakeholder consultations.

Ambition and Objectives

Through the GTS, the DoT has set ambitious objectives such as enabling the transport sector to contribute its fair share to the national effort to combat climate change in a balanced manner, taking into account the DoT and the sector’s primary responsibility of promoting the development of the efficient integrated transport systems to enable sustainable socio-economic development; Promoting behavioural changes towards sustainable mobility alternatives through information, education and awareness raising;  Engaging the low carbon transition of the sector, to assist with the aligning and developing of policies which promote energy efficiency and emission control measures in all transport modes; Minimizing the adverse effects of transport activities on the environment, and facilitating the sector’s just transition to climate resilient transport system and infrastructure. The Department intends to achieve these above-mentioned objectives with concrete actions such as:

  • Ensuring that South Africa has environmentally sustainable low carbon fuels by 2022 by converting 5% of the public and national sector fleet to cleaner alternative fuel and efficient technologies vehicles, ideally powered through renewable energy. Following this, the department will aim towards a further 2% increase.
  • Promoting norms and standards for fuel economy and putting in place regulations that promote improved efficiency in fossil-fuel powered vehicles with improved environmental impact.
  • Ensuring a shift from road to rail transport for both passengers and freight in order to reduce the heavy load on our roads (congestion) by encouraging a 30% shift for freight transport, from road to rail, and a 20% shift of passenger transport from private cars to public transport and eco-mobility transport.
  • Investing in green energy infrastructure like biogas filling stations, and electric car charging points.

In addition, the department will be preparing several regulatory actions targeted at encouraging the modal shift from road to rail and from private vehicle use to public transport. Some key actions are highlighted below.

  • Congestion Tax – In consultation with local government, the department will assist with ‘the development of regulatory and policy frameworks’ for levying a congestion charge on vehicles entering central business hubs. This will require support infrastructure including park-and-rides, integrated eco-mobility transport facilities, as well as bike and car share scheme development.
  • Environmental Levy – In consultation with stakeholders and the National Treasury, the Department of Transport plans to review the current levels of the environmental levy on new motor vehicle CO2 emissions and expand the tax to include commercial vehicles to more effectively influence energy efficiency and the environmental performance of the country’s vehicle fleet.
  • Licensing system – The Department of Transport plans to develop a ‘regulatory regime’ in consultation with National Treasury for the annual taxing of vehicles based on their emissions through the annual car licensing renewal system. In addition, there are plans to ‘enhance the regulatory regime’ to include a three-yearly test on vehicles that covers roadworthiness and exhaust emissions.
  • Fuel labels – The use of vehicle fuel economy norms and standards to label vehicles in terms of their fuel efficiency and emission standards will be continued.
  • Car life limits – The Department of Transport plans to introduce car lifecycle limits on the road. While it did not provide exact details of what this will entail, it indicated that a car with an engine with more than 400,000 km should be banned from the road, or scrapped – similar to the existing taxi recap system.
  • Freight – In consultation with cities, the Department of Transport will assist with the development of regulations to ensure that freight vehicles may only enter urban hubs during off-peak hours. Research will also be conducted into the viability of re-introducing ‘road freight permits’ in South Africa with permit pricing reflecting the emissions for tonne cargo of freight vehicles, as well as road-use charges to internalise the externalities of possible overloading from freight haulers.

Implementation and Review

South Africa is motivated to address their challenges of the green road transportation and reducing half of their green gas emissions, which contributes to environmental pollution and poor quality air within a relatively short space of time. In addition to the various departments involved in the implementation, there is an urgent need to educate the public on their decision-making in relation to modal shifts in transport, promoting the uptake of eco-mobility and NMT, and introducing efficient vehicle technologies. The GTS implementation plan follows the following outline: Short Term (5-7 years), Medium-Term (8-10 years) and Long- Term (11-20 years). All interventions or measures are needed to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely).  The GTS will implement an internal review period, every three (3) years to ensure that the strategic interventions within the strategy are being implemented judiciously.

South Africa- Leading its Transport sector through transformative action

Through the GTS, South Africa is leading by example and setting the right narrative by encouraging the shift to electric vehicles, improving public transport thereby improving security, reliability and frequency of its intelligent transport systems. This strategy is expected to result in enhanced access to employment opportunities for poor communities due to an improvement in public transport and public health benefits associated with improved air quality knowledge, and conditions that initiate and support activities aimed at developing green transport technologies and tend to link quite direct to economic, social and environmental considerations. Thereby the successful implementation of the GTS will bring safe, efficient, reliable, affordable transport to all its people.

[1] Website of South African Government (2019), https://www.gov.za/speeches/address-south-african-transport-minister-dr-be-nzimande-occasion-federation-internationale

[2] Green Transport Strategy (2018), http://www.transport.gov.za/documents/11623/89294/Green_Transport_Strategy_2018_2050_onlineversion.pdf/71e19f1d-259e-4c55-9b27-30db418f105a