German and UK scientists, arguing that meat taxes and other livestock emissions regulations may be feasible, acceptable and effective, bring New Zealand into their considerations.
They may have to revise their thinking on that aspect of their paper after the general election on October 14. New Zealand’s emission-pricing intentions may be changed, depending on the makeup of the new government.
The scientists highlight the lack of existing regulations to cut agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, which they attribute to politicians’ fears that voters will quickly turn against them if the price of meat goes up.
Europe’s ‘Green Deal’ policies, which introduced carbon pricing, do not include or affect agriculture, for example.
They say that to meet climate targets, some form of emissions pricing is needed in agriculture, and that it may be possible to win the public over. They suggest using money raised from taxes to subsidise low-income households or climate-friendly foods, taxing large companies while protecting small producers, taxing meat based on how carbon-intensive it is to produce, and highlighting the health benefits of eating less meat to consumers, as well as the environmental benefits of reduced agriculture.
Their paper cites research that finds a majority of Germans support a tax on meat products corresponding to a 50€/tCO2eq. price on agricultural emissions if it is motivated through animal welfare rather than climate change.
There is also a need to communicate clearly the behavioural impacts resulting from such a tax.
The scientists summarise several examples of policy initiatives for agricultural emissions pricing and taxes on meat.
“New Zealand, where approximately 50% of GHG emissions stem from agriculture, is the global pioneer for pricing agricultural emissions, with an emission pricing mechanism scheduled for implementation in 2025. At the level of the European Union, a revision of the emission trading systems (ETS) to include agriculture seems politically possible.
“While a major reform of the Common Agricultural Policy subsidies is difficult, ETS revenues could be used to help transition farmers to more sustainable business models”
Political discussions about introducing an “animal welfare levy” are ongoing in Germany.
The agriculturally exporting Netherlands considered but abandoned a meat tax in 2022. In that country, nitrogen pollution remains the primary agricultural problem, with current planned 70–80% cuts leading to significant political protests.
In Ireland agricultural emissions are 38.4% of total national GHG emissions but should fall by 25% by 2030. Political debates about instrument choice for mitigating GHG emissions from livestock are ongoing.
Denmark set a legally binding target of -55% agricultural emissions comparing to 1990 by 2030. The country plans to achieve this by increased carbon sequestration and focusing on plant-based protein.
Summing up, the authors say putting a price on agricultural emissions is key to ensure environmental targets are achieved cost effectively.
They contend it is possible to raise public support for this. While emission trading systems of agricultural emissions could achieve maximum economic efficiency, at least if combined with instruments to contain carbon leakage, consumption taxes on animal products could potentially reap more co-benefits including to human health and animal welfare.
They conclude: “Beyond regulating agricultural emissions, a general strategy for political consensus for reducing emissions from land use may include land-use sinks and afforestation next to mitigation of agricultural emissions. However, as the co-benefits are enormous, societal solutions should not shy away from including options to reduce livestock emissions.”
- Link to research (DOI): 10.1371/journal.pclm.0000291