South Africa hopes to reach net zero emissions by 2050 in its low-emission development strategy. While the target has already received significant buy-in from local companies and institutions, none are under any illusions about the challenge that lies ahead.
As Sune van Niekerk, a consultant and compliance specialist at World Wide Industrial and Systems Engineers (WWISE), points out, South Africa is currently not in a position to inject finances into repairing an environment ridden with the toxins associated with these emissions.
“Consequently, rural communities will be the first to bear the brunt, as quality of life, livestock and the overall surrounding environment will deteriorate, making it difficult to survive. Remedying the situation will require tremendous effort from government, and it would involve a significant amount of time to rebuild and remediate those communities.”
It will also require all South Africans to band together to overcome both environmental and economic obstacles, she says.
It is becoming increasingly important for businesses to determine where they are on the net zero emissions map, so they can identify the gaps between their current state and what is needed to reach their desired state.
“They need to develop strategies and a phased approach is best in terms of measuring and tracking progress. By breaking up what needs to be done in phases, the business can achieve small targets which will hopefully assist them in reaching the bigger goal,” Van Niekerk says.
Given that net zero 2050 is also a global target, it is important for businesses to align with international standards. To this end, ISO standardisation principles and process developed by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) will be key.
WWISE Legal Manager, Sibongile Ncwane says there are several important standards that should be implemented in this regard. These include:
*ISO 14064 – Greenhouse Gases: specifies principles and requirements at the organisational level for quantification and reporting of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and removals; details principles and guidelines for GHG projects for quantification, monitoring and reporting of emission reductions and removal enhancements; provides principles, requirements, and guidelines for conducting GHG information validation and verification.
* ISO 14067 – Greenhouse Gases – Carbon Footprint of Products: This standard provides guidelines for quantifying and reporting the carbon footprint of a product (CFP) based on life cycle assessment (LCA).
* ISO 14090 – Adaptation to Climate Change: This standard provides principles, requirements, and guidelines for climate change adaptation planning.
* ISO 14080 – Greenhouse Gas Management and Related Activities: This standard provides a framework and guiding principles for methodologies on environmental management, particularly relating to GHG emissions and removals.
WWISE senior consultant and project manager Simone Samuel believes leadership plays a big role in the integration of ISO standards into business processes.
“It is important that the commitment from top management is clearly demonstrated through their actions and supporting various process owners. Thereafter, the culture change within the organisation will not be met with resistance.”
Implementing these standards carries numerous benefits.
From an economic perspective, operational efficiency can be improved, and regulatory risks and costs reduced. A company might also be granted access into new markets and appeal to more stakeholders and investors.
In terms of environmental benefits, carbon footprints can be reduced, pollution prevented and biodiversity protected. These efforts may also aid in mitigating the effects of climate change.
South Africa is currently experiencing the impacts of climate change, including droughts, extreme weather events, rising sea levels and shifting agricultural patterns, committing to addressing emissions and contributing toward a sustainable future will enhance South Africa’s appeal to investors and foreign business, the WWISE experts say.