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CO2 emissions, energy consumption, income and foreign trade: A South African perspective

Kohler, Marcel
Energy policy 2013 v.63 pp. 1042-1050
carbon dioxide, econometrics, economic development, energy, environmental factors, environmental quality, greenhouse gas emissions, international trade, per-capita income, trade liberalization, South Africa
The effect of trade liberalisation on environmental conditions has yielded significant debate in the energy economics literature. Although research on the relationship between energy consumption, emissions and economic growth is not new in South Africa, no study specifically addresses the role that South Africa's foreign trade plays in this context. A surprising fact given trade is one of the most important factors that can explain the environmental Kuznets curve. This study employs recent South African trade and energy data and modern econometric techniques to investigate this. The main finding of interest in this paper is the existence of a long run relationship between environmental quality, levels of per capita energy use and foreign trade in South Africa. As anticipated per capita energy use has a significant long run effect in raising the country's CO₂ emission levels, yet surprisingly higher levels of trade for the country act to reduce these emissions. Granger causality tests confirm the existence of a positive bidirectional relationship between per capita energy use and CO₂ emissions. Whilst the study also finds positive bidirectional causality between trade and income per capita and between trade and per capita energy use, it appears however that trade liberalisation in South Africa has not contributed to a long run growth in pollution-intensive activities nor higher emission levels.