CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – South Africa will publish a draft carbon tax bill for further comment next week, keeping the door open to delay its controversial implementation for the second time beyond 2016, Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene said on Wednesday.
The carbon tax, part of government efforts to reduce harmful emissions in Africa’s worst polluter, was postponed two years ago to 2016 after alarming industry it would further erode profits amid a global commodities slump and higher electricity tariffs.
“On any tax proposals we take the trouble of engaging with industry before we can implement,” Nene told reporters ahead of tabling his three-year budget outlook.
“So whether it will be implemented in 2016 as we announced or later, will depend on discussions we are having,” he said.
Former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan in 2014 delayed the introduction of a carbon tax by one year to 2016, tweaking its policies to better protect industry from a proposed tax price of 120 rand per ton of carbon equivalent.
The postponement was welcomed by mining and other carbon-intensive companies, such as steel giant ArcelorMittal and petrochemical group Sasol, who have said the new tax will erode profits against a backdrop of rising electricity tariffs and sluggish economic growth.
The tax, expected to be phased in over time, was due to start on Jan 1, 2015 and is one of several green initiatives, including greater vehicles emission taxes South Africa wants to implement to reduce its carbon footprint.
Should the new carbon tax bill, which was approved by cabinet, be sent for public comment, it is unlikely that it would be made law before Nene’s budget policy speech in February, given that the legislative process at parliament was winding down already.