Tax on meat ‘inevitable’ to tackle climate change

The implementation of the Paris Agreement is likely to lead to governments taxing meat in the same way many already do with sugar, tobacco and carbon.

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That is according to research for a group of investors with more than $4trn (£3trn) of assets under management by the Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (FAIRR) initiative.

It argues that the negative environmental and health impacts of high meat consumption make taxation “increasingly probable”, highlighting how this has already been proposed in Denmark and Sweden.

In response, food companies are being urged to use an internal ‘shadow price’ that takes account any future costs they might incur, with the research suggesting a possible future tax of around $2.7 per kilogram of meat.

“The damage the meat industry causes to our health and environment make it very exposed to levies, and it is increasingly probable we’ll see meat taxes become a reality,” FAIRR founder, Jeremy Coller, said.

“If policymakers are to cover the true cost of livestock and human epidemics, while also tackling the twin challenges of climate change and antibiotic resistance, then taxation of the meat industry looks inevitable.”

The research argues that a shift to plant-based protein consumption may be necessary to keep global temperatures rises below 2˚C above pre-industrial levels, as set out in the Paris Agreement.

In addition, it highlights findings from the University of Oxford that suggest $1.6trn could be saved in health and environmental costs by 2050 if animal proteins were cut completely from global diets.

This would include $600bn in climate damage savings, as well as avoiding $1trn of healthcare costs associated with treating diet-related chronic diseases.

Dr Marco Springman, at the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food at the University of Oxford, said current levels of meat consumption are “not healthy or sustainable”.

“They lead to high emissions of greenhouse gases, as well as to large numbers of avoidable deaths from chronic diseases, such as colorectal cancer and type-2 diabetes,” he continued.

“Taxing meat for environmental or health purposes could be a first and important step in addressing these twin challenges, and it would send a strong signal that dietary change is urgently needed to preserve both our health and the environment.”

A full report detailing the FAIRR research will be made publicaly available next year.

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