Denmark’s Pioneering Carbon Tax on Livestock: A Step Towards Carbon Neutrality or a Missed Opportunity?

Denmark is poised to become the first country in the world to impose a carbon tax on livestock, a move designed to propel the nation closer to its ambitious goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2045. Beginning in 2030, methane emissions stemming from the flatulence of cattle and pigs will be subject to a tax of 300 kroner ($43) per tonne of CO2 equivalent. This tax is scheduled to increase to 750 kroner by 2035, as outlined in an agreement reached in June between the government, opposition parties, and representatives from the livestock farming, industry, and trade union sectors. The agreement, which still requires parliamentary approval, has sparked a wave of reactions from various stakeholders.

Christian Fromberg, a campaign leader at Greenpeace Nordic, views the agreement as a glimmer of hope in an era where many countries are retreating from climate action. While acknowledging that the tax should have been implemented sooner and at a higher rate, Fromberg recognizes its significance as a landmark achievement. However, he expresses disappointment at the missed opportunity to usher in a new era for Danish agriculture, which remains heavily reliant on intensive practices that contribute to nitrogen pollution, a major cause of oxygen depletion in water bodies, ultimately endangering marine life.

The Danish Association for Sustainable Agriculture, on the other hand, condemns the agreement as ineffective, labeling it a “sad day for agriculture.” The association’s president, Peter Kiaer, voices his concern as a farmer, describing the agreement as an uncertain experiment that could jeopardize food security, drawing parallels to New Zealand’s abandonment of a similar proposal due to farmer protests.

To alleviate the financial burden on Danish farmers, the plan includes a 60% tax deduction, bringing the effective cost to 120 kroner per tonne from 2030, rising to 300 kroner five years later. Despite this, the Ministry of Economy predicts that the agreement could result in the loss of up to 2,000 jobs in the sector by 2035. The revenue generated by the carbon tax will be channeled back into supporting the ecological transformation of the agricultural industry.

Over 60% of Denmark’s landmass is dedicated to agriculture. The agreement also includes a provision for fallowing 140,000 hectares (346,000 acres) of land, a measure aimed at enhancing carbon storage in the soil and reducing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.

Fromberg, however, argues that while Denmark enjoys a reputation as a green leader, this agreement is not groundbreaking, but rather a continuation of the intensive agricultural practices that have dominated the country for the past 70 years. He contends that the deal serves to perpetuate Denmark’s position as the world’s most intensive meat-producing nation. Denmark is a major exporter of pork, accounting for nearly half of the country’s agricultural exports, according to the Danish Agriculture and Food Council.

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