A carbon tax will come into effect from 2015, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announced on Wednesday.
"Government proposes to price carbon by way of a carbon tax, at the rate of R120 per ton of CO2 equivalent, from January 1, 2015," he told MPs.
Tabling his 2013 Budget in the National Assembly, he said the impact of this would be softened by a tax-free exemption threshold of 60 percent, "with additional allowances for emissions intensive and trade-exposed industries".
An updated carbon tax policy paper would be published at the end of next month, Gordhan said.
According to proposals in the 2013 Budget Review, the basic tax-free threshold of 60 percent will apply during the first phase of the implementation of carbon tax - from 2015 to 2020.
The document says also under consideration is a "gradual phasing out" of the electricity levy as the carbon tax is phased in.
Other environmental taxes in the 2013 Budget will see fuel levies increase by 23 cents a litre from April 3 this year.
On that date, the general fuel levy will rise by 15 cents a litre, to R2.13, while the Road Accident Fund levy will increase by eight cents a litre, to 96 cents a litre of petrol.
The levy on plastic shopping bags will rise from four cents to six cents a bag from April 1.
The levy on incandescent light bulbs - introduced in 2009 - will be increased from R3 to R4 a bulb from April 1.
The tax on motor vehicle carbon dioxide emissions is also set to rise. The tax is aimed at encouraging the purchase of vehicles with lower emissions.
From April 1, the emissions tax on passenger cars will rise from R75 to R90 for every gram of emissions per kilometre above 120g CO2/km.
In the case of double-cab vehicles, it will increase from R100 to R125.
Rules on tax incentives that encourage biodiversity management are to be modified.
The 2013 Budget Review says government is looking at modifying the rules concerning the allowable deductions for setting aside private land as a protected area.
"The limitation of not allowing a rollover of donations in excess of 10 percent of taxable income will be scrapped".
It notes that where land has been owned for many years, the original cost of the land is generally much lower than its current market value.
"Presently, the incentive is calculated using the lower of cost or market value of the protected area for 99-year contracts.
"Government proposes that the value for the purpose of this incentive should be the lower of the municipal or market value."
Capital gains would be triggered, "but the taxable portion of these gains will be set off against the deduction allowed over a period".
Further, certain conservation capital and maintenance spending "will be allowed as deductible tax expenses".
The 2013 Budget Review further proposes incentives to support the development of a local biofuels industry.
The South African biofuels strategy proposes the establishment of eight manufacturing plants.
"As in other countries, a fiscal incentive is required to overcome the initial capital cost hurdles and offset risks."
The document says the initial cost of the incentive "will be 3.5 cents a litre to four cents a litre of petrol or diesel, recovered through a levy included in the monthly price determination".