Academic journal article Journal of Social Development in Africa

Combating Greenhouse Gas Emissions in a Developing Country: A Conceptualisation and Implementation of Carbon Tax in Zimbabwe

Academic journal article Journal of Social Development in Africa

Combating Greenhouse Gas Emissions in a Developing Country: A Conceptualisation and Implementation of Carbon Tax in Zimbabwe

Article excerpt


This paper examines how the government of Zimbabwe conceptualized and has implemented the carbon tax legislation that was designed to combat greenhouse gas emissions across the country. The tax was based on the application of the 'polluter pays' principle. The paper observes that in the early stages of its implementation, the tax was collected as a separate amount of money from motorists. However, with passage of time, the tax was incorporated into the fuel price, and for that reason, could therefore have lost its deterrence effect. Moreover, the tax was calculated based on the engine capacity and not the age of the vehicle, which many motorists found to be unrealistic. There was also no evidence of the tax being supported by scientific measurements of emission, nor a clear emission- reduction strategy. These shortcomings were essentially a consequence of a combination of technical, financial and human constraints. Without a clearly spelt out overarching environmental goal, the carbon tax has failed to achieve the objectives for which it was set up. The paper concludes that the environmental tax needs to be better targeted, and should take into account relevant scientific and institutional issues.


Carbon tax, Zimbabwe, emission, environment, gas, greenhouse, pollution


In the last couple of decades or so, the issue of global warming has received international political attention and has become a priority on many national agendas (Hill and Thompson, 2001). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) meetings of 1990 and 1995 confirmed that human activities do substantially affect climate and contribute to global warming. The Kyoto Protocol of 1997, signed during the third Conference of the Parties (COP 3), requires specific emission reductions below the 1990 levels by the period 2008-2012. The Copenhagen Accord of December 2009 acknowledged that climate change has become one of the greatest challenges of our time. The accord emphasized the need to urgently combat climate change by inter alia, stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (Copenhagen Accord, 2009).

Both developed and developing countries are under pressure to take measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions although most of the burden has fallen on the former because they have better capability. Besides, they contribute more to the total global greenhouse gas emissions. The Kyoto Protocol, despite its challenges, has emerged as an important mechanism for reducing emissions. Among other things, it has sought to promote the Polluter Pays Principle (PPP). The Protocol is generally recognized as a principle of International Environmental Law and a fundamental principle of environmental policy (de Lucia and Reibstein, 2010). According to the principle, parties that have obligations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions must bear the costs of that reduction through prevention and control (Bugge, 1996; de Lucia and Reibstein, 2010). It is however, important to point out that the Kyoto Protocol has been widely criticized, as evidenced by the refusal by countries such as the USA, China and Japan to ratify the agreement on the mandatory greenhouse gas emissions reductions. At Cancun, Mexico in December 2010, Japan refused to extend the Kyoto Protocol's requirement to commit to emission reductions.2 At Cop 15 of 2009, China, with a projected increase in carbon dioxide emissions of 74 percent by 2020 if her GDP grows at 8 percent per annum, refused to accept an international agreement on emission reductions, preferring voluntary reduction actions instead.3

The general focus of this paper is not on the controversy that continues to be generated by the Kyoto Protocol. Instead, it focuses on how governments have fared at the domestic level in terms of combating greenhouse gas emissions through the application of the polluter pays principle. …

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