A tax on carbon dioxide emissions could provide the South African government with enough money to deliver clean running water to every citizen.
This is the finding of a study published on Thursday from the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change.
It argues that almost every country in the world could finance complete water infrastructure improvements with just a small percentage of revenue from a carbon tax.
“We’re hoping we can communicate that protecting the climate does not have to come at the cost of economic development,” said Sabine Fuss, one of the co-authors of the study, which was published in the journal World Development.
“We can invest in climate change mitigation, and at the same time, we can use the revenue to provide infrastructure access to both the upper and lower-income communities,” Fuss said.
The study found that if South Africa implemented a carbon tax consistent with the 2-degree (Celsius) warming limit agreed upon by the international community, the government could provide universal access to clean drinking water with less than 1 percent of the carbon tax revenue.
Sputnik Ratau, spokesman for the Department of Water and Sanitation, said the 2011 census found that more than 95 percent of South Africans already have access to water, although some is of dubious quality.
Ratau added that he was “not too sure” whether the department has had a discussion on whether it supports the carbon tax.
In November 2015, the National Treasury published a draft of its Carbon Tax Bill for public comment. The bill was scheduled to be implemented in January 2017, though the Treasury has not publicly advanced the bill recently.
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan did not mention the bill’s progress in his Budget speech.
The Treasury could not be reached for comment on the status of the Carbon Tax Bill.
As South Africa’s record-breaking drought continues to batter farmers and consumers’ pockets, Fuss said South African policymakers could turn the climate crisis into a win-win situation.
“It’s well known that an impact of climate change is that droughts will be more pronounced in the southern hemisphere. South Africa could develop economic opportunities while trying to minimise the occurrence, frequency and severity of such droughts,” she said.
The study also found that a carbon tax in South Africa could provide enough revenue for additional service delivery of electricity, proper sanitation, telephone connectivity and road infrastructure.