EXCLUSIVE: London think-tank report warns farmers to prepare for new methane-tax on cows to combat greenhouse gas emissions

Farting farm livestock emit 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions
Farting farm livestock emit 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions

EXCLUSIVE by Scottish Energy News

After cars and buses, cows are next in line for government carbon-tax surcharges, according to an independent agri-business think-tank.

Farting farm animals – mostly cows – emit dangerous greenhouse gas emissions (methane) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation has found that the livestock industry is responsible for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Whilst this major cause of climate-changing emissions has been ‘overlooked’ by both the agri-business sector and Scottish and British-governments, a climate tax on methane-emitting farm animals is ‘increasingly probable’.

This puts livestock on the same ‘dirty tax’ runway – like sugar, carbon, alcohol and  tobacco is the stark warning of a private report to investors produced by investor network FAIRR – a London-based initiative supported by investors managing over $4 trillion of assets.

FAIRR’s shock new report, entitled The Livestock Levy, warns that the growing evidence of the meat industry’s harmful impacts on both human health and the environment make the imposition of a ‘behavioural (or sin) tax’ on meat products increasingly likely if countries are to fulfil their commitments to the Paris Agreement.

Other EU countries including Denmark and Sweden have already debated a meat tax.

The report examines the increasing use of ‘behavioural taxes’ by governments on products such as sugar, carbon and tobacco. It finds that meat is on the same path that led these goods to become the target of stand-alone taxes.

The pathway is driven by a global consensus around meat’s negative contributions to climate change and global health epidemics such as obesity, cancer and antibiotic resistance.

Jeremy Collier
Jeremy Collier

Jeremy Coller, chief investment officer of Coller Capital and Founder of the FAIRR Initiative, said: “Behavioural taxes are increasingly common. That’s why we’ve seen 16 countries adopt a sugar tax in recent years.

“The damage the meat industry causes to our health and environment make it very exposed to similar levies, and it is increasingly probable we’ll see meat taxes become a reality. Countries such as Sweden and Denmark have already looked at meat tax proposals.

“The continued subsidisation of meat is the antithesis of what’s needed as policymakers and countries gear up to deliver on Paris. Far-sighted investors should plan ahead for this day.”

“If policymakers are to cover the true cost of livestock epidemics like avian flu and human epidemics like obesity, diabetes and cancer, while also tackling the twin challenges of climate change and antibiotic resistance, then a shift from subsidisation to taxation of the meat industry looks inevitable.”

Dr Marco Springmann, Senior Researcher on Environmental Sustainability and Public Health at the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food at the University of Oxford, added:

“Current levels of meat consumption are not healthy or sustainable.

“They lead to high emissions of greenhouse gases that threaten to jeopardise existing climate commitments, as well as to large numbers of avoidable deaths from chronic diseases, such as colorectal cancer and type-2 diabetes.

“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 towards more healthy and sustainable plant-based diets is urgently needed to preserve both our health and the environment.”

The FAIRR report highlights research from the University of Oxford estimating that if animal proteins were cut completely from global diets around $1.6 trillion would be saved in health and environmental costs by 2050.

In particular, the research found that such a shift towards nutritionally balanced plant-based diets by 2050 would avoid $600 billion in climate damages and $1 trillion in healthcare expenses associated with treating diet-related chronic diseases.

The Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return (FAIRR) Initiative aims to close that knowledge gap, ensuring that investors understand the risks and opportunities to emerge from this growing method of  intensive livestock production, and to support investors to assess these issues as part of their investment processes.

The National Farmers Union Scotland were asked to provide a comment on this report, but did not reply within publishing deadlines.

12 Dec 2017

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