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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

An Analysis of Global Approaches to Carbon Pricing for Poverty Alleviation in South Africa

South Africa ranks 14th in the world in terms of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Its nationally determined contribution to emissions reduction has been highly criticised and deemed inadequate. The South Africa government points to its overriding priorities of eliminating poverty and eradicating inequality for its contribution.  

The Introduction of this dissertation provides a brief background into the origins of climate science reporting on the effects of GHG emissions. It then presents the state of South Africa’s GHG emissions levels and poverty percentage. Carbon Pricing is introduced as a potential means for South Africa to effectively reduce its GHG emissions and alleviate existing poverty.  

The Literature Review defines Carbon Taxes and Emission Trading Schemes and categorises common revenue use methods. The Literature Review also identifies the definition of poverty used in the dissertation and reviews methods and tools for assessing poverty alleviation strategies.  

The Methodology section details the data collection approaches used along with the qualitative, quantitative and systems dynamic assessment tools used to analyse the selected Carbon Pricing approaches.  

The Results and Discussion section describes and analyses the five selected implemented Carbon Pricing approaches: the United States Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the California Cap-and-Trade (CaT) Programme, the Canada Federal Fuel Charge, the Colombia Carbon Tax, and the South Africa Carbon Tax. The RGGI and California CaT programme most effectively reduce their GHG emissions.  Forecast models for Colombia and South Africa indicate that their applied carbon taxes will not significantly reduce their GHG emissions. In terms of poverty alleviation, the California CaT programme presents as the best holistic approach due to the comprehensive, systems dynamic use of its revenue.  

The Conclusion states that Carbon Pricing is an effective climate policy whose effectiveness is enhanced when working in collaboration with other emissions reduction actions and policies that can be financed from the Carbon Pricing revenue generated. The combination of short-term, cash-in-hand-benefits and long-term resilience planning is found to be the most effective systems dynamic form of poverty alleviation. 


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.