Climate Change

This is why Denmark, Sweden and Germany are considering a meat tax

Germany, Denmark and Sweden are considering a meat tax in view of its role in emissions of greenhouse gases

Germany, Denmark and Sweden are considering a meat tax in view of its role in emissions of greenhouse gases Image: REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez

Emma Charlton
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Climate Change?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Climate Change is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Climate Change

Carnivores are in the firing line, with nations including Germany, Denmark and Sweden considering a meat tax.

Advocates of such a plan say the environmental impact, health ramifications and concerns about animal welfare underpin the need for such a levy. But how realistic is meat tax? And would it really work?

While the idea is likely to face opposition from farming bodies and industry lobby groups, in Germany Green and Social Democrat lawmakers are backing a higher sales tax on meat. Officials in Denmark and Sweden have considered similar proposals, according to a report from financial intelligence firm Fitch Solutions.

Meat tax to curb high emissions

Raising animals for food requires huge amounts of land, food and water. Added to that, the livestock sector plays a significant role in emitting greenhouse gases, producing 7.1 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent a year, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Since that’s around 15% of all human-induced emissions, meat tax may deter related emissions.

While meat consumption is falling in some developed nations, it is rising elsewhere, including in China, according to research published in Science. When you add to that the FAO’s prediction that overall global demand for livestock is set to increase by 70% by 2050, you can see why some politicians back policies to limit it.

With higher environmental impact of meat vs other foods, meat tax can be an effective step
With higher environmental impact of meat vs other foods, meat tax can be an effective step Image: Science

There’s a growing move away from meat in many developed countries. A recent report commissioned by the United Nations advocates plant-based diets to help mitigate climate change, including a policy recommendation to reduce meat consumption.

Meat tax would echo other levies imposed around the world to promote public health and well-being. In addition to long-standing charges on alcohol and tobacco, sugar taxes are now in place in many countries including the UK, Ireland, Portugal and the UAE.

Will meat tax be effective?

Even so, such measures can be controversial, with some arguing they fall disproportionately on low-income consumers. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is planning a review of how “sin taxes” work in the UK.

Others argue that better-designed policies could make these taxes work more effectively and alleviate the impact on the low-income population. A working paper from the US National Bureau of Economic Research explores how this could function in practice through the theoretical framework of a soda tax.

A study in Science contends more evidence is needed about the effectiveness of trying to influence people’s food purchasing and consumption (with deterrents like meat tax).

“The multitude of factors that influence the price and availability of meat, and how it is processed and marketed, determine a socioeconomic landscape that profoundly affects, and is affected by, norms and behaviors,” the authors wrote.

“The existence of major vested interests and centres of power makes the political economy of diet change highly challenging.”

Have you read?
Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Climate ChangeAgriculture, Food and BeverageFuture of the Environment
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

1 in 5 migratory species are at risk of extinction, says a new UN report

Simon Torkington

February 21, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum