Meat Tax - The Solution to Climate Change?

by rtharby on Novembre 25, 2016 - 8:55pm

Ask almost anyone on how they think the world should solve the issue of global warming. Odds are their immediate answer will be “use less fossil fuels.” However, recent research has shown that there may be a simpler solution that can be found right on our dinner plates. In the article “Denmark wants to tax meat to help combat climate change” by The Metro, It is reported that Denmark has proposed a tax on all beef products, in an effort to stop climate change. Livestock accounts for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions – more than exhaust emissions from all forms of transport (cars, trains, planes) combined. Not only does livestock emit a large amount of greenhouse gases, but it is also a huge consumer of water. Approximately 43,000 litres of water is need to produce just 1 kilogram of beef. The tax would first be placed on only beef products, but then later extend to all meat products. This concept is proposed by the Danish Council of Ethics, and is backed by 14 of its 17 members. Mickey Gjerris, the spokesperson for the council stated that “Danes are morally obligated to change their eating habits” and added that relying on consumers to reduce meat consumption on their own will not be effective.

My initial reaction to this article was to think of how citizens of Denmark would react to such a tax. In the western world, taxes are an extremely sensitive topic. However, this could be way for Denmark to legitimize the state through environmental management. The tax could decrease meat consumption, which would then decrease greenhouse gas emissions, thus improving environmental quality. I also thought of how similar to concept was to the carbon tax that has been implemented in parts of Canada. By making it more expensive to consume a product, it decreases the demand for it. The meat tax is an example of a substantive economic instrument, because it’s using an economic incentive to decrease meat consumption.

In my opinion, I think this is an effective way to reduce consumption of meat. It is somewhat of a voluntary tax, since you don’t have to pay it unless you consume meat products. Also, it would be very difficult to persuade individuals to alter their lifestyles solely for the sake of the environment. My one concern would be for the farmers and agriculture workers who would be directly affected by a decrease in demand for their products. My criticism of the article is that he author did not highlight the key stakeholders in the situation, and how this new tax could affect them. For example, the author did not mention how much animal agriculture accounts for Denmark’s GDP, or didn’t mention the meat consumption of an average Dane. This would have provided the reader with a bit more of an understanding of the implications of this tax, and helped the reader understand the situation more effectively. Raising awareness of climate change causes to the public, and educating them on solutions is absolutely critical to combatting it. It is an extremely complex issue and the public must understand how their actions contribute to the problem, or how changing their actions could solve it.