Monday 27 January 2020 5:03 am

DEBATE: Should Britain introduce taxes on meat and dairy to meet our climate goals?

and Sarah Hendry
Sarah Hendry is director general of the Country Land and Business Association.

Should we consider introducing taxes on meat and dairy products to meet our climate goals?

Leo Murray, director of innovation at the climate change charity Possible, says YES.

“Nanny state!” That’s the shrill, familiar cry of the reactionary commentariat whenever a threat to “individual freedoms” is spotted on the horizon.

But the climate crisis is now underway in earnest, impoverishing, displacing and killing more and more people around the world with each passing month.

To stop it from becoming an irreversible catastrophe, the UK government has committed to testing targets to cut the pollution that is heating the planet. It is quite clear that these targets cannot be met unless those of us who eat meat and drive cars do much less of these things than we do today — which would come with the added bonus of major health benefits that would save the NHS billions.

Strategic taxation is one proven way to drive these changes, but every time a meat tax is suggested, ministers wail “hands off my bacon”.

If politicians don’t want to tax meat and dairy products to tackle the climate emergency, they need to propose a better alternative — and fast.

Sarah Hendry, director general of the Country Land and Business Association, says NO.

Meeting our climate goals is so important that we cannot be distracted by political gimmicks that place unnecessary burdens on producers and consumers.

Pricing less well-off people out of the market for high-quality protein will impact their health, while damaging the very sector that has the most potential to mitigate climate change.

Farmers in the UK are already two and a half times more efficient than the global average, and are developing plans to reduce C02 emissions by a further 10m tonnes by 2050 by changing the way they farm.

A meat or dairy tax would hinder that progress, increasing the price of sustainably grown UK products for no material benefit.

British farmers are contributing to our climate goals by planting trees, storing carbon in soils, and improving biodiversity — all while busy trying to make a living.

Taxing our Sunday roasts is just biting the hand that feeds us.

Main image credit: Getty

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.