Would a meat tax bring consumption down to the levels needed to limit emissions and climate change?

Dr Marco Springmann 

Senior researcher, Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food

“Yes: but the tax needs to be at least 20%”

We needed to know how meat demand might change in response to a change in price, and how high the change in price, i.e. the tax, should be. Estimates of the former are established by relating differences in demand to differences in prices as found in national food surveys, household expenditure surveys, or even supermarket data.

An analysis of such estimates from around the world suggested that for a 10% increase in the price of meat, the demand for meat would go down by 5-8%. From those estimates, one can see that a tax on meat should at least be 20%. But can we be more precise? If we approach the taxation of meat from a climate perspective, then there is an agreed method for estimating a science-based level of taxation: assess the amount of greenhouse gases emitted during meat production and multiply that amount by the so-called ‘social cost of carbon’, a monetary estimate of the expected climate damages caused by a unit increase in emissions. 

Both those values can vary and have uncertainties attached to ...

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