While countries around the world have started setting up regulations for major companies contributing to greenhouse emissions and in turn, climate change, this week, the Danish government voted to take a different approach. Instead of trying to tackle the monumental climate change crisis solely by collaborating with major industry players, the Danish Council of Ethics, an independent body that advises parliament, ministers and other public authorities on ethical issues, has proposed a “climate tax” on products with the greatest negative impact on the environment, namely meat.
As we saw last month when the Netherlands recommended a lower meat intake, the Danish Agriculture and Food Council is not happy about this proposal. More surprisingly, not every politician in Parliament is gung-ho about the idea either, with one going as far as to say, “Maybe [the tax] would get beef consumption to fall in Denmark, but it wouldn’t do much of anything for the world’s CO2 emissions.”
We, respectfully, disagree. And considering 14 of the 16 members of the council support the tax, we’d say we are not alone. Animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, more than the total exhaust from all forms of transportation worldwide. So, to remark that the world’s CO2 emissions would not be changed at all from less meat consumption is not only ridiculous, it’s downright irresponsible.
As proponents of the tax stated, the Danish people are, of course, responsible for making climate-friendly choices on their own. However, after six months of deliberation the Council felt it was imperative to push people in the right direction. They hope to extend this tax on other products with a negative impact, but felt that starting with meat would be the smartest move considering its immensely destructive environmental impact.
When we look at how the meat industry and government have worked together in the past, this Danish approach makes total sense, in fact the US could learn a thing or two from Denmark. After all, the animal agriculture industry and the US government have been in cahoots for years now, we can’t expect them to lead the change. Look at government subsidies for example. Despite the fact that meat consumption has come down by a third since the 1970s, the US government hands out $38.4 billion a year to ensure that people have an easy time entering the industry, and that production continues to grow. Nice work, lobbyists. The worse part about this system is that these hand-outs aren’t coming from the pockets of government officials. If only! The government actually takes tax dollars from its citizens to pay off the very industry that is destroying the planet. If you’re trying to figure out how that makes sense, we’ll save you the time, it doesn’t.
While we can’t deny that the US government has begun to make strides in addressing climate change, the destruction will become unmanageable if we continue at this snail’s pace. Although this new Danish tax hasn’t been set into motion yet, the US government should definitely consider implementing a similar law. After all, the first way we should be fighting climate change is with our forks, a connection our government needs to make, and soon.
Image Source: Wikimedia