Could Cows and Pigs be Taxed for Their Emissions?

One country is set to launch a new carbon tax on farmers over the carbon emissions their livestock generate.
Jayme Hudspith
July 4, 2024
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2 min read
Four pigs in a muddly field.

Denmark’s coalition government agreed to introduce the world’s first carbon emission tax on agriculture from 2030. The country is one of the leading dairy and pork exporters, with agriculture ranking as the country’s biggest source of emissions.

Under the proposed new levies on livestock, farmers face having to pay £22 (300 kroner) per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), which will gradually increase to £55 (750 kroner) per tonne by 2035.

However, according to reports a 60% tax break will apply, meaning that farmers will effectively be charged £9 (120 kroner) per tonne of livestock emissions per year from 2030, rising to £22 (300 kroner) in 2035.

The goal of the levy is to tackle methane emissions from cows, sheep, and pigs – livestock which produce potent greenhouse gases that contribute significantly to global warming.

On average, Danish dairy cows emit 5.6 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year. Using the lower tax rate of 120 krone results in a charge of 672 krone per cow, or £50. With the tax break in place, that levy will rise to 1,680 krone per cow in 2035 £125.

In the first two years, the proceeds from the tax will be used to support the agricultural industry’s green transition and then reassessed.

Danish farmers’ group Bæredygtigt Landbrug said the measures amounted to a “scary experiment” and “pure bureaucracy”.

Chairman Peter Kiær said in a statement.

“We believe that the agreement is pure bureaucracy. We recognize that there is a climate problem… But we do not believe that this agreement will solve the problems because it will put a spoke in the wheel of agriculture’s green investments.”

Peder Tuborgh, the CEO of Arla Foods, Europe’s largest dairy group described the move as a “positive”, however, argued that farmers who “genuinely do everything they can to reduce emissions” should not be subjected to the tax.

They added:

“It is essential that the tax base for a (carbon) tax is solely based on emissions for which there are means to eliminate (them)”.

Denmark’s Tax Minister Jeppe Bruus said:

“With the agreement, we will reach our climate goals in 2030 and we will take a big step closer to becoming climate neutral in 2045. We will be the first country in the world to introduce a real carbon tax on agriculture. Other countries will be inspired by it. The agreement shows how much we can achieve when we come together across party colours and interests to find joint solutions to one of the greatest challenges of our time.”

Currently, there are no plans to introduce a similar carbon emission tax on farmers in the UK.

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One country is set to launch a new carbon tax on farmers over the carbon emissions their livestock generate.

Denmark’s coalition government agreed to introduce the world’s first carbon emission tax on agriculture from 2030. The country is one of the leading dairy and pork exporters, with agriculture ranking as the country’s biggest source of emissions.

Under the proposed new levies on livestock, farmers face having to pay £22 (300 kroner) per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), which will gradually increase to £55 (750 kroner) per tonne by 2035.

However, according to reports a 60% tax break will apply, meaning that farmers will effectively be charged £9 (120 kroner) per tonne of livestock emissions per year from 2030, rising to £22 (300 kroner) in 2035.

The goal of the levy is to tackle methane emissions from cows, sheep, and pigs – livestock which produce potent greenhouse gases that contribute significantly to global warming.

On average, Danish dairy cows emit 5.6 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year. Using the lower tax rate of 120 krone results in a charge of 672 krone per cow, or £50. With the tax break in place, that levy will rise to 1,680 krone per cow in 2035 £125.

In the first two years, the proceeds from the tax will be used to support the agricultural industry’s green transition and then reassessed.

Danish farmers’ group Bæredygtigt Landbrug said the measures amounted to a “scary experiment” and “pure bureaucracy”.

Chairman Peter Kiær said in a statement.

“We believe that the agreement is pure bureaucracy. We recognize that there is a climate problem… But we do not believe that this agreement will solve the problems because it will put a spoke in the wheel of agriculture’s green investments.”

Peder Tuborgh, the CEO of Arla Foods, Europe’s largest dairy group described the move as a “positive”, however, argued that farmers who “genuinely do everything they can to reduce emissions” should not be subjected to the tax.

They added:

“It is essential that the tax base for a (carbon) tax is solely based on emissions for which there are means to eliminate (them)”.

Denmark’s Tax Minister Jeppe Bruus said:

“With the agreement, we will reach our climate goals in 2030 and we will take a big step closer to becoming climate neutral in 2045. We will be the first country in the world to introduce a real carbon tax on agriculture. Other countries will be inspired by it. The agreement shows how much we can achieve when we come together across party colours and interests to find joint solutions to one of the greatest challenges of our time.”

Currently, there are no plans to introduce a similar carbon emission tax on farmers in the UK.

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