Tax on Climate-Damaging Foods

I’ve been writing about food and climate change for a while now, and the latest news is promising. The Danish Council of Ethics has released a report entitled The Ethical Consumer: Climate-Damaging Foods.

The report details the greenhouse gas impact of the livestock sector: 41% of the 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions emanating from the livestock sector is made up by beef production, and another 20% by dairy cattle. These are somehwat conservative figures, as a life cycle analysis approach puts the proportion of greenhouse gas emissions from livestock at 51%.

The Danish Council of Ethics makes several recommendations in this report, including

  • a tax on beef and other climate-damaging foods, accompanied by a subsidy on the least climate-damaging foods
  • taxes that help reduce food waste
  • Mandatory meat-free days in public institutions
  • subsidies for farmers wanting to convert to more climate-friendly production, largely fueled by the new taxes

In general, the Council supports regulation to reduce the consumption of climate-damaging foods, and leave the choice of what to eat with the consumer. This would result in a shift in consumer choices due to changing prices in favor of climate-friendly foods. The Council stated that giving up beef is “unproblematic.”

Even with such a progressive outcome, the Danes continue to have dissent within their leadership, with members who believe that human interference in climate change is not unequivocal. Living dangerously in the anthropocene era, and in the throes of anthropogenic climate change (a fancy way of saying human-caused climate change), I find it surprising that the science hasn’t sunk in yet for some of us.

However, the tide is turning, and decisions like this are guiding the steps we take to live more in harmony with our life-support system. Kudos to the Danes for their leadership. We support this win-win for consumers, farmers, and Ma Earth.



The Danish Council on Ethics proposes a tax on climate-damaging foods, including beef. Increasingly, meat-free options like this vegan mushroom “omelette” are becoming popular as consumers act to reduce their contribution to climate change and improve their health.


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