Professor Maarten Hajer of Utrecht University in the Netherlands authored the report, released by the UN’s International Research Panel (IRP), which is comprised of 34 scientists and 30 governments
“All of the harmful effects on the environment and on health needs to be priced into food products,” Hajer told The Washington Post. “I think it is extremely urgent.”
Meat, he argued, should be taxed at the wholesale level to raise the price and deter consumption. He and other members of the IRP assert that livestock creates 14.5 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions that the panel says contribute to climate change.
Taxes are needed to deter increases in meat consumption in nations like China, he said.
“We think it’s better to price meats earlier in the chain,” Hajer told The Guardian. “It’s sexier to tax it at the consumer level, but not as effective.”
“If we were all to copycat the way in which we feed ourselves in North America or Europe [with meat], the planet would be in deep trouble,” Hajer added.
Nations should discourage their citizens from eating meat, the report says.
“This report shows our current food system has to change because it’s not sustainable,” Hajer said.
Chicken and dairy consumption is expected to increase by 20 percent in the next decade, and beef and pork consumption by 14 percent over that time span, according to the report.
“Dealing with consumer choices is an extremely touchy issue, but you have to deal with it, because there will consequences,” former European Union environment commissioner Janez Potocnik told The Guardian. Potocnik is co-chairman of the IRP. “The time is coming when we will not be able to sweep it any more under the carpet.”
Rachel Premack, a columnist for The Washington Post’s Wongblog, said the UN’s report deserves serious consideration in the United States.
“It may be delicious, but the evidence is accumulating that meat, particularly red meat, is just a disaster for the environment — and not so great for human beings, either,” she wrote, asserting that agriculture consumes 80 percent of water in the US – most of that being for meat. “… For a kilogram of red meat, you need considerably more water than for plant products.”
Premack added, “Along with a tax, a meat cutback could be achieved by making plant-based diets more appealing and less expensive.”