Report Calls For Meat Tax To Be High Priority At Paris Climate Change Conference

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Guy Bentley Research Associate, Reason Foundation
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Slashing meat eating should be one of the central pillars of the global warming agenda when world leaders meet in Paris to discuss climate change Nov. 30, according to a new report.

The London-based Chatham House think tank says cutting down on meat consumption is essential to prevent warming by two degrees by the end of the century. Cultivating animals is responsible for around 15 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, according to the report.

“As governments look for strategies to close the Paris emissions gap quickly and cheaply, dietary change should be high on the list,” says report author Laura Wellesley.

So dangerous is the alleged threat posed by climate change the think tank recommends a slew of government interventions and globally co-ordinated responses to make meat eating less attractive to consumers.

Americans will be one of the top targets for these measures as U.S. citizens eat more meat than most, at 250 grams per person per day.

Among the salad of recommendations outlined in the report is an international task force that “could undertake a first assessment of these costs and quantify the potential economic gains from reduced consumption.”

The more draconian part of Chatham House’s recommendations centers around using taxes to discourage meat eating. “Interventions to change the relative prices of foods are likely to be among the most effective in changing consumption patterns,” says the report.

The U.S., along with other with the rest of the world, should aim “to increase the price of meat and other unsustainable products,” through a carbon tax. This proposal was greeted with deep skepticism by Marlo Lewis Jr., a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

“Which will be the first group of people to be harmed by these taxes?” asks Lewis. “It’s the poor obviously.” Lower-income Americans would be hardest hit by such price increases as the poor spend a significantly greater proportion of their income on food than the rich.

According to Lewis, Chatham House’s recommendation for a top down re-direction of the world’s system of food production, distribution and consumption will be ineffective at best and counter productive at worst.

“A better-fed population is more productive, and a more productive population makes food more abundant and secure. The Chatham House proposal would break this virtuous cycle of progress at both ends.

“It would make energy and food more costly in a world where too many people still languish in energy poverty and go to bed hungry,” Lewis told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

But it appears cutting carbon isn’t the only reason the U.K. think tank wants people to skip out on red meat. The report is laden with claims that people in rich countries are eating more meat than is good for them. 

“The average person is already eating twice as much meat as is deemed healthy by experts,” says Chatham House. “The social and environmental costs of meat overconsumption are significant, in terms of a growing non communicable diseases burden, obesity, climate change.”

Implicit in the report is the idea that governments should “nudge” citizens to stop eating so much meat because people are ignorant about what is in their best interest. “Without government intervention at national and international level, populations are unlikely to reduce their consumption of animal products,” the authors write.

The desire to interfere in people’s diets makes the Chatham House report look like a “self-parody” of environmentalism, says Lewis. He adds that should reducing meat eating become a major part of the climate talks in Paris it will be the equivalent of “taking Michael Bloomberg’s policies and trying to make a treaty out of it.”

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