South Africa has relatively high aggregate and per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to other developing countries, and to world averages. Transportation sector emissions are increasing, but climate change competes with urgent economic, social, and public health concerns for government attention. As a party to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and an active participant in the Kyoto Protocol negotiations, South Africa may be able to address transportation emissions through projects under the Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism.
The two major forces affecting South Africa’s transportation sector are the country’s legacy of apartheid and privatization. Apartheid-era policies cause high greenhouse gas emissions in two ways: (1) Blacks lived in separate townships and homelands, forcing them to travel long distances to jobs in commercial or white residential areas; and (2) anti-apartheid sanctions resulted in South Africa using high-carbon synthetic fuels based on domestic coal and boosting the local vehicle manufacturing industry. Privatization in the 1980s resulted in freight transportation shifting from rail to more energy-intensive trucks. Intense competition within the trucking industry has resulted in poor maintenance and extended use of inefficient vehicles by small entrepreneurial companies. This problem is more widespread in the minibus “jitney” sector, which evolved to serve the unmet travel needs of black South Africans.
This report creates two scenarios of greenhouse gas emissions in 2020. In the high “business as usual” scenario, residual land use policies continue to aggravate transportation problems. Personal car use accelerates as car prices drop and consumer credit becomes more widely available. In the low GHG scenario, mobility, accessibility, and safety concerns drive the government to play an active role in land use and transportation policies. More efficient use of urban land and energy resources improves the quality of life and reduces GHG emissions. Low-emissions scenario strategies are not necessarily costly but require strong political commitment.