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Environmental pollution and climate change: an ethical interrogation of the payment of carbon tax as a means to reduce greenhouse gas emission in South Africa.

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Climate change and environmental pollution are the main environmental issues affecting the world’s ecosystem including that of South Africa. They cause poverty, land degradation, waste and littering, health hazards and urbanisation. One of the main causes of climate change and environmental pollution is carbon emissions into the atmosphere. As a way to curb these emissions carbon tax policies have been introduced in several countries and South Africa is one such country. A carbon tax aims to reveal the actual costs of carbon emissions for the betterment of the country and, crucially, the environment. In South Africa, the idea of a carbon tax has been under discussion since 2010 and in 2019, the Carbon Tax Act was signed into law by the president of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa. This was due to the fact that carbon is recognised as one of the major contributing factors to the issue of environmental pollution and climate change. Carbon emissions do not only affect the environment but also the economy and society. If effectively applied a carbon tax will raise revenues whilst at the same time reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Both prior and subsequent to the introduction of the carbon tax policy, there has been debate and discussion on its effect on the environment, the economy and the society. Based on the debate and discussion thus far, I noticed that most of the scholars who have written on carbon tax have focused more on the economic implications of the tax on South Africa as opposed to the tax’s ethical implications. Thus, this dissertation contributes to the debate and discussion by evaluating the South African carbon tax policy through the lens of the ethical theories of sustainable development and environmental stewardship.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.