Carbon taxes could wipe more than $11 billion in profits from leading meat companies in the coming decades as governments look to curb the industry’s damage to the environment, according to investor network Fairr.
The meat sector has come under increased scrutiny in recent years over its impact on the environment, links to deforestation and animal welfare standards. Agriculture is second only to energy in contributions to global greenhouse gas emissions, and raising animals accounts for almost half the industry’s carbon footprint.
With momentum gathering for policy makers to impose levies on farm-animal emissions, carbon taxes could cut as much as $11.6 billion from 40 leading meat companies’ earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization by 2050, Fairr said in a report. That’s equal to about 5% of each company’s revenue.
Few countries have so far set specific goals for the agricultural sector as part of their national commitments to the Paris Agreement. New Zealand, one of only two nations with legally binding targets to curb agricultural emissions, plans to price livestock emissions from 2025.
Coronavirus-related shutdowns at slaughterhouses have also renewed attention to the way meat is produced. In Germany, where close working conditions have contributed to plant closures, Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner has said that an animal welfare levy should be added to meat products, potentially further raising costs for producers.
“A root cause analysis of the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to show the urgent need for the meat and fish industry to improve biosecurity and screening practices,” Fairr founder Jeremy Coller said. “In the post-Covid landscape there is a risk that governments may stop subsidizing animal agriculture; and start taxing it instead.”