Carbon call

Carbon call

The alarm on the carbon tax debate has certainly been raised over the last few weeks. Now comes the responsibility of real solutions of which the carbon tax is positioned as a way of ensuring carbon put into the atmosphere is reduced in the years to come.

Food & Drink Technology spoke to Emilien Hoet at ClimatePartner about whether the climate tax is achievable. Will it be an effective way of bringing action that will have an impact? Is it a fair way of placing the burden on those who are responsible, as well as offering incentives for changes to a more green economy?

Emilien Hoet’s article looks at the pros and cons of a carbon food tax, referencing original research, studies and opinions of those in the centre of the debate.

He points out that until recently, actions targeted towards reducing greenhouse gases (GHG) and avoiding the worst effects of climate change have been focused on decarbonising energy and transportation. Yet food production and consumption are responsible for around a quarter of GHG emissions globally, with the majority of these emanating from the meat and dairy industry. Most of these emissions are not a result of fossil fuel usage but rather biological activity including methane produced by farm animals during digestion, nitrous oxide from fertilised soils, as well as carbon dioxide released through land transformation.

The failure to deal with carbon emissions has incurred a vast debt that will now have to be repaid with interest. Will a carbon food tax happen? We could be pivoting towards a carbon tax: one of the most effective ways to reduce emissions is putting a price on carbon.

Hoet explains about a growing body of opinion from scientists, climate activists, policy makers and the healthcare industry, that our food consumption habits should come under greater scrutiny, both to improve our health and help alleviate the considerable cost to the environment. Many advocate that a carbon tax on food – particularly those products accountable for the greatest emissions – will be an effective tool in influencing consumer choice.

In the UK, an influential coalition of the country’s leading healthcare bodies – The UK Health Alliance on Climate Change (UKHACC) – is calling for a climate tax to be imposed on food items with a heavy environmental impact by 2025, unless the food industry itself takes voluntary action to significantly curb emissions.
Carbon taxation on food is a complicated affair and not without risk. While studies have shown that a carbon tax could act as an effective incentive to bring about change at both the production and consumer levels, a flat tax has the potential to unfairly impact individuals on lower incomes. It could also adversely affect farmers and other producers through a loophole allowing the importation of cheaper, high-emission products.

The UK government has dropped plans to introduce a carbon tax on certain food items for now, however food items are included in a carbon reduction blueprint, which prices up emissions across all areas of the economy, to be unveiled ahead of COP26. Part of this could include a carbon tax within the next decade, and while it could be an effective way to accelerate our low-carbon transition, we need to ensure it is fair rather than an over-simplistic, one-size-fits-all policy which does not adversely affect those who are already disadvantaged.

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