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South Africa’s polluting giants: it’s about profits and class

category southern africa | environment | opinion / analysis author Friday December 07, 2018 19:20author by Shawn Hattingh Report this post to the editors

When it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, South Africa falls within the 15 biggest polluters in the world. But there is also a class dimension when it comes to pinning down which sections of society are responsible for air pollution – the major polluters in South Africa are the ruling class (capitalists, politicians and top state bureaucrats) and their state and corporations (including state corporations), continuing an economy based on cheap black labour, mining and externalising costs. State-backed”empowerment” firms — for Afrikaners from 1948, and blacks from 1994 — are deeply involved.

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South Africa’s polluting giants: it’s about profits and class

Shawn Hattingh (ZACF)
When it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, South Africa falls within the 15 biggest polluters in the world:
· In 2015 alone, South Africa emitted 427 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2)
· As such, South Africa as a country is a major contributor to global warming – although it is not quite in the league of China, the USA and India
· Air pollution in some parts of South Africa, such as the Mpumalanga Highveld, is so bad that millions of people suffer from diseases caused by air pollution, including skin rashes, heart disease, asthma and lung cancer
· In fact, it is estimated tha between 2 200 and 2 700 people in South Africa die prematurely every year as a result of being exposed to high levels of air pollution
· But there is also a class dimension when it comes to pinning down which sections of society are responsible for air pollution – not all people contribute equally to air pollution
· When pollution is looked at in conjunction with class, it becomes very clear who the major polluters in South Africa are; and it is not the working class

The polluting class

· The reality is that the ruling class (capitalists, politicians and top state bureaucrats) and their state and corporations are responsible for the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions – including CO2 emissions – in South Africa
· The biggest 80 companies operating in South Africa account for over 60% of all air pollution

Two of the biggest polluters amongst these companies are [state-owned] Eskom and [privatised] Sasol

· Sasol’s Secunda plant, which is a coal-to-fuel plant, is the largest single emitter of CO2 in the world. Sasol as a group emits over 60 million metric tons of CO2 per year.

Eskom, however, is by far the biggest polluter in the country
· 90% of the electricity Eskom generates comes from coal and in particular lowgrade coal that creates heavy pollution when burned
· Eskom emits well over 200 million metric tons of CO2 a year
· Over 77% of the electricity genera