Sustainability charge for meat debated in European Parliament as new report urges price hikes by 2022
31 Jan 2020 --- The European Parliament will next week be presented with a plan to increase the price of meat across the EU to reflect its environmental costs, including CO2 emissions and biodiversity loss. The “sustainability charge” or fair-meat price proposal would apply to all member states by 2022 as part of the European Green Deal and Farm to Fork Strategy. “We ought to encourage and incentivize the production and consumption of plant-based foods if we are serious about addressing the environmental crisis we are in,” Sebastian Joy, CEO, ProVeg International tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
“Animal agriculture is a leading cause of climate change, deforestation, species extinction, habitat loss, water consumption and pollution. It is unsustainable. The sustainability charge could also bring significant public health and animal welfare benefits,” he explains.
Asked whether this is tantamount to a “meat tax,” Joy adds, “Our solution is a sustainability charge, which differs technically from a tax. The revenues of the sustainability charge would be allocated to specific areas. We want the revenues to help farmers to invest in more sustainable agricultural practices and to help lower the prices of more sustainable plant-based foods.”
The report was written by the TAPP Coalition, which comprises leading farming, health, and environmental organizations and will be debated by MEPs on Wednesday, February 5.
If EU Member States introduced the recommendations, prices would increase as follows: for beef/veal by €0.47 per 100 grams, for pork by €0.36 per 100 grams, and for chicken by €0.17 per 100 grams, by 2030.
This reflects the fact that environmental costs per kilogram of beef are the highest. This would lead to a reduction in chicken, pork, and beef consumption by 30 percent, 57 percent and 67 percent respectively by 2030, according to the report.
Revenues from the sustainability charge are projected at €32.2 billion (US$35.5 billion) per year across the EU by 2030. This could be used to help farmers invest in more sustainable agricultural practices and to lower VAT and consumer subsidies on vegetables and fruits. It could also provide financial support for low-income households, and support developing countries to adapt to climate change and protect forests and biodiversity.
“The time has come for us to act decisively with policy on the environmental consequences of animal protein, the price of which has been kept artificially low for far too long. Here we have a solution that is fair for farmers and supports the transition to a more plant-based food system that we so urgently need if we are serious about mitigating climate change,” adds Joy, who is also one of the TAPP Coalition members.
“Based on a survey in the Netherlands, these pricing proposals are supported by a majority of 63 percent of the Dutch population. We hope and believe that view is reflected across Europe.”
Scale of potential environmental savings
The report says that fair meat prices in Europe could lead to a reduction in CO2. emissions of up to 120 million tons of CO2 per year. This equals all CO2 emissions from four EU member states: Ireland, Denmark, Slovakia, and Estonia, and nearly 3 percent of all EU greenhouse gas emissions.
“Including the environmental cost of animal protein in the price is a crucial element of meeting EU targets for climate, biodiversity, public health, and animal welfare,” adds Pier Vellinga, Climate Professor and TAPP Coalition Chair.
Wider benefits are also highlighted. If EU meat consumption reduces and plant-based protein consumption rises, healthcare costs will reduce as well, notes Jeroom Remmers, TAPP Coalition Director. “Europeans eat roughly 50 percent more meat than is recommended in dietary health guidelines. We could also save billions of Euros every year in lower healthcare costs.”
Next week’s discussion has been organized by TAPP Coalition and Compassion in World Farming EU.
This report comes amid a “Plant-based Revolution,” identified in Innova Market Insights Top Ten Trends 2020. There is a constant flurry of plant-based NPD and meat-free food is at an all-time high. The market researcher also highlights a 68 percent average annual growth in food and beverage launches with a “plant-based” claim (Global, CAGR 2014 to 2018). Lab-grown meat, seafood and fish is on the horizon as a plethora of companies and start-ups pioneer in the cellular meat movement with commercial launches expected soon. There is a strong school of thought that the world is moving toward a slaughter-free future.
The connection between food production systems and the rapid onset of climate change and other environmental impacts have been underscored in several global reports in recent years. In November 2018, the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) called for a total transformation of how systems operate as agriculture and consumer choices are major factors driving “disastrous climate change.” Key themes include the type of food produced and how to mitigate impacts through “climate-smart” food systems as well as dietary changes such as cutting down on meat.
This closely followed a stark warning from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which called for limiting global warming to 1.5°C, requiring rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society, including food production.
By Gaynor Selby
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