A ‘Carbon Tax’ on Meat Could Save the Planet

There is a group of health professionals in the UK who are trying to persuade the government to consider a carbon tax and carbon food labels on meat by 2025.  The aim is to protect both public health and the health of the planet.

More than a quarter of total global emissions (according to the UK Alliance on Health and Climate Change, aka “UKAHCC”) are due to food production and consumption.

By rethinking our approach to food, we can potentially mitigate the dangerous health effects of climate change.  The UKAHCC recently said that economic incentives have been most effective ways to curb consumer habits in the past. For example,  it is estimated (by the UK Treasury), that 50% of manufacturers adjusted their recipes after the so-called ‘sugar tax’ was introduced in 2014.

Moving Towards a Climate Friendly Diet

We cannot deny that meat is an important source of vitamins and protein but we are all being advised to cut down on its’ consumption.

Livestock farming (for consumption) contributes towards more than half of global greenhouse gasses from food production. To compare, only 29%  of those emissions come from crop production for human consumption.

However, there is a debate on how much we need to cut down in order to reach net-zero emissions. On one side, the UK government’s Climate Change Committee is suggesting we need to cut our beef, lamb and dairy production by 20% to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. But on the other side, the Eating Better Alliance proposes that we need to consume even less meat within a shorter amount of time:  50% less by 2030

Eating Less Meat, but Better Quality

There is evidence to suggest that switching from intensive farming to organic farming could have a less severe impact on the environment (according to the UKAHCC).

In Europe alone, doing this could reduce agriculture-related greenhouse gasses by 40-47%. The pastures would help to soak up carbon. However, this measure alone is likely not going to be enough to achieve net-zero emissions by 2030.

In addition to driving change by meat producers and suppliers, public attitudes towards meat consumption must also change. Healthcare providers should be leading the way with this initiative.  Health care professionals need to share this information directly with their patients in a clear and accessible way to help people transition to a more climate-friendly diet.

Carbon Food Labels

New food labels showing the carbon footprint of an item may be in our future.  In a survey cited by the UKAHCC, two-thirds of consumers said they would support the decision to put mandatory labels on food products showing how big the carbon footprint is.

Carbon footprint labels along with a carbon tax imposed on producers make us all more conscious consumers.

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