Swedish scientists have proposed a climate tax corresponding to €60/ton CO2eq on meat and milk, which could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from European agriculture by 7%.Researchers from the University of Gothenburg have an article published along with Chalmers University of Technology in the scientific journal Climatic Change, claiming that reducing meat, milk and egg consumption will produce lower emissions of methane and nitrous oxide and will make available more land that can be used for bioenergy cultivation.
“A tax on the emissions from food production would normally be preferable. But as this is virtually impossible in practice, and the effects of switching away from meat and milk are so great, we show that it can be far more effective to apply the tax directly to the meat and milk consumption,” said Stefan Wirsenius, a researcher in the Department of Energy and Environment at Chalmers.
Beef, which is responsible for the highest emissions per kg of meat, would be taxed higher under the proposal, while chicken and pork would be subject to a lower tax as their emissions are lower.
“Today we have taxes on petrol and a trading scheme for industrial plants and power generation, but no policy instruments at all for food-related greenhouse gas emissions.
This means that we do not pay for the climate costs of our food,” said Fredrik Hedenus, another researcher in the Department of Energy and Environment at Chalmers.
A climate tax on meat and milk would probably also mean that land becomes available for the growing of bioenergy crops, researchers claimed.
“If the world decides on substantial reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions, land will become a scarce resource, as a lot of land may be needed for bioenergy. Land-efficient food production and consumption will therefore become increasingly important. And beef production requires 20 times more land per kcal than beans,” added Hedenus.
According to the calculations, a tax equivalent to €60/ton CO2 (far less than half the current petrol taxes in many European countries) would reduce beef consumption by about 15%.
“This tax is not at all a matter of forcing people to become vegetarians, but merely moving towards a slightly more climate-smart diet,” says Wirsenius.