Danish Ethics Council Recommends Climate Tax on Beef

DENMARK - The Danish Council of Ethics has voted that Danes should act against climate change by implementing a tax on beef.
calendar icon 28 April 2016
clock icon 2 minute read

A majority of 14 of the Council's 17 members recommended a tax on beef in the consumption stage, as they said it would clarify the issues for consumers and lead to restricted spending on beef.

The Council said climate change is an ethical problem because it poses a significant risk to human health, food security, biodiversity and nature.

It said that emissions from food account for 19 per cent - 29 per cent of emissions globally, with beef making up 10 per cent of emissions.

Therefore, the Council concluded that Danes are ethically obliged to change eating habits, and that a tax on beef or ruminants generally would be able to make a big difference in emissions whilst raising awareness of the problem.

It further argued that consumers would be able to eat healthy and nutritious diets without eating beef, and that leaving responsibility for 'ethical eating' to individual consumers would not be efficient.

"For a response to climate-damaging foods to be effective, while contributing to raising awareness of the climate challenge, it must be shared, which requires society to send a clear signal through regulation," said Mickey Gjerris, chairman of the Council working group

The challenge of living up to the Paris Climate Agreement and keeping warming below 2°C makes measures relating to food emissions necessary, the Council said.

However, in response, the representative body the Danish Agriculture and Food Council (Landbrug & Fødervarer - L & F) said the Ethics Council was on the wrong track with its recommendation.

"If you want the climate to be good, you have to think in an entirely new direction. Global challenges require global solutions," said the Area Director of L & F, Niels Peter Nørring.

L & F criticised the Council for placing responsibility on consumers for reducing greenhouse gases, saying that Denmark is already occupied with ensuring production is both climate and environmentally sound.

"We are ahead of many other countries. A climate tax will require a huge setup in the public and in the food industry, while the effects will be difficult to spot. This experience has been shown by the 'fat tax'," said Niels Peter Nørring.

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