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Something rotten in Denmark's livestock tax

Canada's policymakers should heed this cautionary tale and consider the broader impacts of such measures before implementation
dairy cows
Danish livestock farmers will face a tax of approximately $58 CAD per ton of carbon dioxide equivalent, increasing to around $145 CAD by 2035.

Starting in 2030, Denmark will impose a groundbreaking tax on livestock farmers for the greenhouse gases emitted by their cows, sheep, and pigs—key sectors in the country's agricultural economy. This makes Denmark the first nation to implement such a tax, targeting a significant source of methane emissions, one of the most potent contributors to global warming. 

Danish livestock farmers, who do not control their own pricing, will face a tax of approximately $58 CAD per ton of carbon dioxide equivalent, increasing to around $145 CAD by 2035. However, with a 60% income tax deduction, the effective cost per ton will start at about $23 CAD and rise to about $58 CAD by 2035.

Methane, which traps about 87 times more heat than carbon dioxide over a 20-year timescale, has seen rapid increases in levels since 2020. Livestock accounts for approximately 32% of human-caused emissions, according to the U.N. Environment Program. This is likely why Denmark is moving ahead, despite New Zealand's government having to abandon similar plans due to farmers' protests. 

Given Canada's track record of adopting environmental policies without fully considering their impact, many Canadians have every reason to believe we could be next. With Environmental and Climate Change Canada heavily influenced by well-resourced environmental lobbyists, farmers may find themselves at a disadvantage. Urban-centric environmental policies have prevailed under the Trudeau regime, often implemented without a comprehensive understanding of their impact on food security and affordability. A new tax on methane emissions could be the next challenge to our food industry.

READ: Canada aims to protect cattle industry as U.S. avian flu outbreak spreads 

The Danish tax on methane emissions unfairly targets specific diets. Meat lovers and cheese enthusiasts, who have appreciated centuries of culinary artisanship, will be financially penalized. These sectors have defined many food cultures around the world and elevated the relevance of agriculture for centuries. Converting vegetable to animal proteins required dedication and ingenuity, whether our modern lifestyles appreciate it or not. Animal proteins are part of our heritage, bringing families and friends together—a powerful uniting force.

This is the first time a government is deliberately targeting specific agricultural sectors, and it's a misguided approach. Reducing methane emissions is critical, but before compromising a nation’s food security, governments should seek to lower emissions in other sectors first and exclude agriculture. Food is not only essential for our survival but also deeply embedded in our culture and traditions. Safeguarding the planet is crucial, but so is preserving our food mosaic and dietary heterogeneity.

Reducing methane emissions is a worthy objective, but unless we understand how these policies impact our nation’s food security, moving forward with such measures is both reckless and disrespectful towards farmers and food companies that have provided us with great animal-protein-based products for centuries.

It is imperative that Ottawa does not draw inspiration from Denmark on this issue, as there are significant flaws in their approach to regulating the livestock industry.

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