A 'meat tax' could be brought in to combat climate change - everything you need to know

The UK Health Alliance on Climate Change (UKHACC) has called for food with a heavy environmental impact to be taxed by 2025, unless the industry undertakes voluntary action on the impact of its products.

The UKAHACC brings together doctors, nurses and other health professionals to “advocate for responses to climate change that protect and promote public health”.

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Members of the UKHACC includes the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Physicians, the British Medical Association and the Royal College of General Practitioners.

A food carbon tax

In a new report from the alliance, it states that the climate crisis cannot be tackled without moves to cut the consumption of products that cause high emissions, such as red meat and dairy products.

“Changing the way we both produce and consume food is essential if we are to mitigate climate change” the report states, adding that failure to act quickly will “heighten existing national health challenges, place undue financial strain on the NHS, and worsen health inequalities both within the UK and internationally”.

The UKHACC offers a number of recommendation, including:

  • Mandatory environmental labelling for food, similar to existing nutritional information, which would not only inform sustainable consumer choices, but also would mean that producers would have a way to measure their impacts in a uniform way and be accountable for the results
  • Ending “buy one get one free” promotions on unhealth and perishable foods, to help reduce food waste
  • A food carbon tax to be levied on all food producers according to the carbon footprint of their products

“The EAT-Lancet global red meat consumption will need to be cut by half if the food system is to stay within sustainable environmental limits,” the report explains.

It adds: “Similarly, we will need to substantially reduce - by 50 per cent - the amount of food lost and wasted along the food supply chain, from production to consumption.”

Fiscal incentives “proven effective”

Drawing on examples offered by the likes of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy (SDIL), also known as the Sugar Tax, the report explains that it is possible to develop similar policies in regards to the food carbon tax.

The alliance acknowledges, however, that route to implementing the Sugar Tax required both focus and time, which is why it argues that the government should signal that it intends to move in the direction of a food carbon tax if voluntary action on the full climate impact of food products is not taken by the food industry by 2025.