The UK cannot continue to feed itself by offshoring its greenhouse gas emissions
A Carbon Border Adjustment (‘CBA’) tax is one policy proposal to make sure that imported goods do not have a greater environmental impact than those produced domestically. Whilst the idea of applying such a tax to imported agricultural inputs that have large climate and environmental footprints, like fertilisers and animal feed, is promising, applying it to individual food products is flawed. That was the verdict of the Food Ethics Council jury at its recent Food Policy on Trial event, which critically explored whether a CBA mechanism could positively contribute to food systems that are fair for people, animals and planet.
The UK recently agreed in principle to a controversial trade deal with Australia, which will allow tariff-free access of Australian products like beef to be imported to the UK. This sets a worrying precedent, risking undercutting UK food standards and potentially further increasing the environmental footprint of food consumed in the UK. Countries are not currently accountable for the climate impacts of imported food. This allows them to offshore their greenhouse gas (‘GHG’) obligations. In the UK nearly half of what is eaten is produced overseas. The European Commission is proposing a CBA mechanism as a way of levelling the playing field for European companies by holding imports accountable for their GHG emissions the same way that products produced in the EU are.
Would a CBA deliver net benefits for UK food systems? Very few have thought about CBA as it relates to food and farming – until now….
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