The carbon footprint of materials and products is becoming an increasingly important factor in
international trade. At present the carbon emissions balance of the South African economy is
not well understood, especially the carbon emissions associated with imports and exports. An
investigation was done of known economic input-output and life cycle analyses models addressing
this shortcoming. The results reveal that South Africa is a major exporter of carbon; at least 129 per cent more carbon is associated with a dollar earned from exports than a dollar spent on imports, and the carbon footprint of the outflows on average, equates 37 per cent of the total carbon emissions of the economy. Such figures have serious policy-related implications in a future where international climate-change trade limitations will become stricter and binding.