Coming soon: A tax on meat to cut down on emissions in global warming

South China Morning Post, 13 December 2017.


Move over, taxes on carbon and sugar: the global levy that may be next is meat.

Some investors are betting governments around the world will find a way to start taxing meat production as they aim to improve public health and hit emissions targets set in the Paris Climate Agreement.

Socially focused investors are starting to push companies to diversify into plant protein, or even suggest livestock producers use a “shadow price” of meat – similar to an internal carbon price – to estimate future costs. Meat could encounter the same fate as tobacco, carbon and sugar, which are currently taxed in 180, 60, and 25 jurisdictions around the world, respectively, according to a report from investor group the FAIRR (Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return) Initiative.

Lawmakers in Denmark, Germany, China and Sweden have discussed creating livestock-related taxes in the past two years, though the idea has encountered strong resistance. Greenhouse gas emissions from livestock are about 14.5 per cent of the world’s total, according to the Food&Agriculture Organisation, which projects global meat consumption to increase 73 per cent by mid-century, amid growing demand from economies like India and China. That could result in as much as US$1.6 trillion in health and environmental costs for the global economy by 2050, according to FAIRR, a London-based initiative created by Coller Capital.

“Investors are starting to consider this in a similar way to how they have considered climate risk,” said Rosie Wardle, who manages investor engagements at FAIRR. “It’s kind of accepted now that we need to address livestock production and consumption to meet that 2 degree global warming limit.” FAIRR’s sustainable protein engagement plan, currently supported by 57 investors with US$2.3 trillion under management, plans to ask 16 major food multinationals this year to “future proof” their supply chains by diversifying their protein sources.

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