0 per cow: Why Denmark is imposing tax on livestock farts – Times of India

Denmark will tax livestock farmers for the greenhouse gases emitted by their cows, sheep, and pigs starting in 2030, becoming the first country to do so. The tax targets a major source of methane emissions, one of the most potent gases contributing to global warming.
Why it matters

  • The Danish government aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70% from 1990 levels by 2030, said taxation minister Jeppe Bruus.
  • Methane, though less discussed than carbon dioxide, traps about 87 times more heat over a 20-year period, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
  • As per a UN report, livestock account for about 32% of human-caused methane emissions.
  • As per a Guardian report, researchers have dedicated a surprising amount of effort to investigating the relationship between animal flatulence and the Earth’s climate.
  • One hypothesis suggests that the gas emissions from large dinosaurs, specifically sauropods, may have had an impact on the planet’s climate in the past. While sharks are seldom observed expelling gas, cows, like sheep and goats, belong to the ruminant family, possessing four stomachs. This unique digestive system results in substantial methane production, a potent greenhouse gas.
  • A single cow can generate up to 200kg of methane annually, primarily through burping, with some gas also escaping from the rear.
  • A typical Danish cow produces 6 metric tons (6.6 tons) of CO2 equivalent per year.
  • Denmark, which is a large dairy and pork exporter, also will tax pigs and other animals too.

Zoom in

  • As of 2030, Danish livestock farmers will be taxed 300 kroner ($43) per ton of carbon dioxide equivalent, increasing to 750 kroner ($108) by 2035.
  • However, due to a 60% income tax deduction, the actual cost per ton will start at 120 kroner ($17.3) and rise to 300 kroner by 2035. A typical Danish cow produces 6 metric tons of CO2 equivalent per year, translating to an annual tax of 672 kroner ($96) per cow.
  • The proceeds from the tax will initially support the agricultural industry’s green transition and be reassessed after two years. The tax is part of Denmark’s broader strategy to meet its climate goals, which also includes substantial investments in environmental projects like reforestation.

The big picture

  • Denmark’s move comes after months of protests by farmers across Europe against climate change regulations.
  • Methane levels have surged since 2020, with livestock accounting for about 32% of human-caused methane emissions, according to the UN Environment Program.
  • The tax agreement is part of a broader coalition deal, which includes a $3.7 billion investment in reforestation and wetlands to help meet climate goals.

Between the lines

  • New Zealand had passed a similar law set to take effect in 2025, but it was repealed after heavy criticism and a change in government.
  • In contrast, Denmark’s tax agreement, reached late Monday, involved the center-right government, farmers, industry representatives, and unions. The tax is expected to pass in the 179-seat Folketing, or parliament, after a broad-based consensus.

What they are saying

  • Taxation minister Jeppe Bruus: “We will take a big step closer in becoming climate neutral in 2045,” adding that Denmark “will be the first country in the world to introduce a real CO2 tax on agriculture.”
  • Maria Reumert Gjerding, Danish Society for Nature Conservation: Described the tax agreement as “a historic compromise,” noting it lays the groundwork for a restructured food industry beyond 2030.
  • Peder Tuborgh, CEO of Arla Foods: Said the agreement was “positive” but emphasized that farmers who are actively reducing emissions should not be taxed.

What next

  • Denmark’s livestock tax sets a precedent that could inspire other countries to follow suit. The Danish government’s goal is to become climate neutral by 2045. The effectiveness of this policy will be closely watched as other nations consider similar measures to address their agricultural emissions.

(With inputs from agencies)

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