Meat tax is "inevitable" to beat climate change, according to a major new report


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Do you love eating meat?

You’re in for some bad news.

Remember “sin” tax? The extra tax levied on stuff like tobacco, sugar and alcohol? There are now plans for meat to be taxed the same way in the not too distant future.

“Sin taxes” to combat the negative effects of meat eating on health and global warming are being considered according to a report for investors managing over $4tn, reports The Guardian.

Eating too much meat, drinking alcohol and smoking all have negative personal and environmental consequences. Meat production degrades the environment by releasing greenhouse gas emissions and using up a disproportionate amount of land and water per unit of protein. Alcohol production also takes up a disproportionate amount of fertile land which could be better used to produce food, and smoking leads to enormous health bills.

Tobacco and alcohol are already taxed as so-called vices. In a new report, investment analysts suggest doing the same with meat by making meat eaters pay for the impact of the meat sector on the environment. The report is from the investor network Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (Fairr) Initiative.

The idea is that if your burger ends up costing the same as a serving of Foie Gras, you may as well decide to settle something vegetarian instead.

Is this really necessary?

We already know that livestock production happens at a huge cost to the environment and due to a growing global middle class there is a growing demand for meat, so it will only get worse.

Population growth has driven up global meat consumption by over 500% between 1992 and 2016 and this trend is likely to continue in the future, especially in emerging markets, according to the report.

Thing is, meeting the growing demand has come with serious environmental, health and social problems, including:

  • higher greenhouse gas emissions than the transport sector;
  • an increasing rate of obesity and associated higher risks of type 2 diabetes and cancer;
  • increasing levels of antibiotic resistance;
  • threats to global food security and water availability; and
  • soil degradation and deforestation.

As it is, far too many of us eat much more meat than we need to and that habit comes with proven health risks like obesity, heart disease and cancer.

The writers of the report argue that meat products are following the same pathway to taxation as tobacco and sugar which started with a global agreement that these products harm society.

“This leads to an assessment of their financial costs to the public, which in turn results in support for some form of additional taxation,” states the report.

Meat taxes are already on the agenda of parliaments in Denmark, Sweden and Germany, but no legislation has resulted as yet.

But it looks like we have to prepare to cough up and pay in the next five to ten years.

“As implementation of the Paris climate agreement progresses we’re highly likely to see government action to reduce the environmental impact of the global livestock sector,” Maria Lettini, director of FAIRR, told the Guardian. “On the current pathway we may well see some form of meat tax emerge within five to 10 years.”

Jeremy Coller, the founder of Fairr and the chief investment officer at the private equity firm Coller Capital said: “If policymakers are to cover the true cost of human epidemics like obesity, diabetes and cancer, and livestock epidemics like avian flu, while also tackling the twin challenges of climate change and antibiotic resistance, then a shift from subsidization to taxation of the meat industry looks inevitable.”

This will save many lives

The first global analysis of meat taxes completed in 2016 found levies of 40% on beef, 20% on dairy products and 8.5% on chicken would save half a million lives a year and slash climate warming emissions, reports The Guardian.

There is of course another solution to these various problems: meat substitutes. Startups like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are already successfully marketing their animal-free meat products to restaurants and Walmart.

If more people can convince their taste buds that this stuff is as good as meat, we might be able to skip the meat tax.

If this doesn’t work, there’s always the plan to solve climate change by dimming the sun with chemicals in the sky. What could go wrong?