South African mandatory GHG reporting system to be implemented in 2014

Submitted by: Amanda Botes, Friday, June 14, 2013

The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) expects to implement a mandatory greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting system in South Africa in 2014 says Jongikhaya Witi, Director of the Climate Change Monitoring & Evaluation Unit at the DEA.

According to the National Climate Change Response White Paper companies and entities that emit more than 100,000 tonnes of GHGs annually or that consume electricity that results in more than 100,000 tonnes of emissions from the electricity sector will be required to report on their GHG emissions in the new system.

In addition, Witi adds that “All listed activities in terms of section 21 of the Air Quality Act (Act 39 of 2004) are required to report their emissions.  This will also include activities that are not necessarily listed in terms of section 21 but may have a climate change impact (e.g. coal mining and production and use of Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS).”

DEA is in the process of developing a web based reporting system as well as a range of South African specific emission factors for calculating GHG emissions, says Witi.   

Scope 1 emissions only to be reported on

The South African mandatory reporting guidelines focus on the reporting of Scope 1 emissions only. In alignment with the IPCC Guidelines, Scope 1 emissions are reported on under the following categories: Energy, Industrial Process and Product Use (IPPU), Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use and Land use (AFOLU) and Waste.

Witi explains the reasons behind exclusively reporting on Scope 1 emissions: “The national inventory attempts to avoid double counting of emissions as far as it is practicable.  Therefore Scope 2 emissions are not accounted for in the national inventory because these emissions are already accounted for in power generation which is largely due to Eskom’s emissions.  Again, in terms of Scope 3, bunker fuels such as fuels in international aviation and marine navigation are estimated but are not necessarily added to the national total.”

A web-based reporting system

The DEA is developing a web-based monitoring and reporting system so that GHG information collected from organisations is in a standard format and therefore can be compared and analysed. The system forms part of the National Atmospheric Emission Inventory component of the South African Air Quality Information System (SAAQIS). The system is currently in draft and is being reviewed. “A stakeholder engagement process to comment on the draft system took place in April.  Currently, the system is being reviewed to take into account comments from stakeholders.  In a month or two, the pilot phase of the system will kick start with a number of companies and sectors that have volunteered to test-run the system.  The results of the pilot phase will be used to calibrate the system before it is completed and commissioned,” says Witi.

South African specific GHG emission factors

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) default emission figures will be used to populate the SAAQIS GHG emission factor database but the DEA is working together with local sectors to develop country specific emissions factors in certain areas. These country specific emission factors will replace some of the default IPCC emission factors. Witi explains the importance of developing South African specific emission factors: “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) default emission factors are generally conservative and not necessarily representative of national circumstances.  This often results in over/under estimation of emissions.  This is particularly true for emitting/sink sectors such as Waste, Agriculture, Forestry and Land Use.”

“Another case in point is methane emissions (CH4) from coal mining.  The amount of in-situ methane trapped in coal is smaller in South Africa compared to other coal producing countries such as the Australia, the United States of America and so on.  As a result, the coal mining industry in South Africa decided to develop country-specific methane emission factors.  The result of this analysis showed that South African CH4 emission factors are significantly lower compared to emission factors published in the IPCC guidelines.  These country-specific emission factors have now been adopted and used in the latest national greenhouse gas inventory to be published before the end of 2013,” explains Witi.

Developing the mandatory reporting guidelines

The DEA have used guidelines developed by the IPCC as a basis to develop the reporting system and are working with local sectors where emission factors and methodologies specific to the South African context need to be developed. Commenting on the reporting development process Witi says, “The IPCC guidelines are generic in nature and are intended to account for most emission sources and gases.  This means that in some cases, the IPCC guidelines may not be representative of national circumstances.  To address this challenge, the IPCC guidelines are also designed such that they allow for flexibility in the manner in which country-specific/bottom-up methodologies are used by countries.  A good example of this is that the IPCC Guidelines do not provide methodological guidance on estimating emissions from Gas-To-Liquids (GTL) and Coal-To-Liquids (CTL) processes even though they do provide guidance on which sectors they need to be accounted for. Secondly, emitting sectors are more familiar with the GHG Protocol which is a corporate standard for reporting emissions and may not be familiar with the IPCC guidelines.  Therefore, DEA needs to work closely with Industry sectors so that they are familiar with this set of guidelines.  This is important because the SAAQIS design is based on the 2006 IPCC guidelines,” says Witi.

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Amanda Botes