Embedding the basics

Six things worth knowing about climate change


How much is one ton of carbon?1

One ton of CO2e is emitted when you…

  • Burn 317 litres of diesel – equivalent of six 50 litre tanks of car fuel
  • Use 300 kg (about 120 reams) of standard office paper
  • Breathe for 500 days

One ton of CO2e looks like…

  • 500 CO2 fire extinguishers
  • A 200m3 hot-air balloon

To make up for one ton of CO2e emissions…

  • 50 trees have to grow for one year
  • A 2.3 MW wind turbine has to rotate for 2.5 hours
Flowers in a nursery

Key findings

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Climate change is real and it’s happening now

The concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) passed the 400 parts per million (ppm) marking 2015, the highest it has ever been in the past one hundred thousand years. Ample evidence shows the effects thereof, such as an increase in global average temperatures and the increase in the severity and number of droughts and floods that have occurred over the past few decades.

There is little debate in the mainstream scientific community about the fact Basics that natural fluctuations in climate are heightened by anthropogenic factors, and at an alarming rate.

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Governments are committed to limiting warming toa global average of 2ºC

The global goal of a 2ºC rise in temperature was reaffirmed at the global treaty on climate change in Paris in 2015, where efforts were advocated to limit it even further to 1.5ºC. Achieving this will require a six-fold increase in initiatives to decarbonise economies.

The responsibility has been placed with all countries, as no differentiation is now being made between developed and developing nations. African countries will therefore have to enhance their regulations to keep to the ‘well below 2ºC’ limit.3 Locally, the South African President announced in December 2009 that South Africa is committed (under the Copenhagen Accord) to implementing mitigation measures to reduce national greenhouse gases by 34% and 42% from ‘business as usual’ by 2020 and 2025, respectively.

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Emissions are on a shoestring budget

Scientists have determined how emissions lead to a rising temperature. This has been used to calculate carbon budgets. A carbon budget is an indication of the amount of carbon that may be emitted while limiting warming to a specific temperature. At the world’s current rate of emitting greenhouse gases (GHGs), the 2ºC carbon budget will be exhausted by 2036.

To limit warming to the global average of 2ºC, an annual decarbonisation rate of 6.3% per annum is required until 2100. The decarbonisation rate required to stay within the carbon budget will increase each year if not met. The higher the decarbonisation rate, the more expensive and drastic the mitigation measures required to meet the targets will become.

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Climate change will have direct and indirect impacts on business

Shifts in climate may change the production patterns of agricultural commodities. It is expected that dry areas will become dryer and wet areas wetter. The weather will also become more extreme and disruptive. Flash flooding and droughts will pose major threats to water and food security.

South Africa has already experienced the impact of water scarcity on its economy – the result has been large increases in food prices and stress on the economy as more food has had to be imported and less could be exported. Strict water consumption limitations could have a major impact on water-intensive industries such as mining, agriculture and certain production companies.

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Reducing emissions in every sector is essential

Major sources of emissions include the consumption of fossil fuels for transport and electricity, cement production, flaring in the oil and gas sector, and agriculture. These provide the basic building blocks of most businesses and economies. Deforestation taking place in parallel worsen the situation as natural carbon sinks are being destroyed.

Financial institutions and the insurance sector can help to meet the investment needed for the deployment of low-carbon technologies and managing or transferring climate risks. South African businesses need to be ready to address and adapt to risks associated with changes related to regulatory and policy requirements, technology, market needs and preferences, and the long-term implementation of carbon tax.

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Shareholders and customers will expect companies to manage and reduce their direct and indirect environmental impacts and prepare for the effects of climate change

An effective response to climate change will also yield multiple benefits for businesses. For example, energy and water efficiency can reduce cost; cleaner, low-polluting energy sources reduce health risks to employees and communities; and improved disaster risk management reduces business downtime.

Decarbonisation: This means that each country needs to decouple/separate their gross domestic product (GDP), or economic growth, from the amount of carbon being released.

Contact us

Jayne Mammatt

Jayne Mammatt

Partner, PwC South Africa

Tel: +27 (0) 11 797 4128

Chantal van der Watt

Chantal van der Watt

Senior Manager, PwC South Africa

Tel: +27 (0) 11 797 5541

Jaco Viviers

Jaco Viviers

Manager, PwC South Africa

Tel: +27 (0)11 287 0826

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