- Oxford University researchers propose that a 40% tax on beef and 20% tax on milk could offset the environmental damage caused by production in these industries, The Guardian reported.
- In the first global analysis of the food industry's impact on climate change, this team of researchers concluded that taxes would dissuade consumers from purchasing as much of these products. They predict that a reduction of these purchases would trickle down to reduce production, and thereby carbon emissions.
- The researchers also think the taxes will bring health-related benefits, and feel fewer people purchasing these products could save half a million lives due to healthier diets.
The Oxford researchers looked at a wide range of foods beyond just beef and milk, having also evaluated categories like oils, eggs and different types of grains. The team evaluated how much of a tax would be necessary to offset the category's climate change impact, and then how much that tax might impact consumption.
If there were a tax on sugar, according to The Guardian's research, it would have the lowest projected change in consumption out of 13 categories depicted in a graphic in The Guardian. This suggests that it wouldn't take much of a tax on sugar to offset climate change costs, but also that such a tax isn't likely to have a large impact on consumption.
While voters in several cities weighed in on their ballots' proposed soda taxes Tuesday, this research could turn heads of both proponents and opponents about the efficacy of soda taxes to reduce consumption. However, soda tax supporters in cities like Philadelphia, which passed a tax earlier this year, may have already realized that the health argument can't be easily won. Hence, many proponents have instead framed soda taxes as a fiscal benefit to the local community and government programs instead.
Taxes on commodities like beef and milk could cause a much louder uproar among consumers, legislators and health experts alike. High consumption rates, in addition to production after-effects like deforestation and methane emissions from cattle, cause their relatively higher impact on climate change, researchers say.
But consumers, activists and legislators could easily argue that such taxes might disproportionately impact lower-income families. Manufacturers and meat and dairy processors would also likely lobby against such proposed taxes, as they did for soda taxes.