Akhila is a Justmeans staff writer for CSR and ethical consumption. As an IEMA certified CSR practitioner, she hopes to highlight a new way of doing business. She believes that consumers have the immense power to change 'business as usual' through their choices. She is a Graduate in Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow, UK and in Environmental Management and Law. In her free-time she i...
Study Finds 'Meat Tax' Will Reduce Global Warming
Raising meat for human consumption is one of the biggest anthropological reasons for global warming. The Worldwatch Institute actually puts this figure to 51% which means that even minor cutbacks in meat consumption will have far-reaching affects. A new study that has come out of the University of Gothenburg and Chalmers University of Technology found that a direct tax on meat and meat products can act as a means of reigning in these emissions.
A tax of of 60/ton of CO2-equivalent would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from European agriculture by 7% and would also reduce beef consumption by 15%. The study also found that if the land made available by decreasing meat and dairy production was used to produce bioenergy crops, agricultural emissions would drop a further 42%. This tax is not meant to nudge people towards a vegetarian diet but instead a more "climate-smart diet."
However a climate-smart diet can be achieved in several different ways. Meatless Mondays may not be like much, but according to one FAO study, if everybody in the United States went meatless every Monday for a year, 12 billion gallons of gasoline would be saved. The benefits of a 'meat-easy' diet are numerous but the idea of imposing a tax on meat is very reminiscent of the UK government proposal for tax on junk food.
Taxes are a useful economic tool if used wisely. The study of a Pigovian system of taxing for food items although revelatory is hardly revolutionary and largely redundant. Instead of making meat more expensive, why not make vegetables cheaper? Why not decrease the price of organic meat? The fact remains that on a policy level, it is easier to slap on a tax on to something rather than subsidizing something else. If a tax is imposed, using tax revenues to promote healthier diet choices will bring about a greater change than just one measure or the other.
The additional argument of imposing tax on food to promote healthy eating is that taxes on personal choices like amount of meat to consume infringes on the libertarian ideal of the free state. Whilst this may be stating it strongly, a government that does impose a tax on meat will easily become 'the nanny state' - a label that the UK has been repeatedly stuck with but may not go down so well in other countries.
Isn't it better to use the funds that go into setting up the infrastructure behind imposing a tax to promote healthier eating habits by means of education programs or by increasing the availability of healthier options?
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