'Meat tax' could lead to price rises as UK farmers warn they may go out of business

30 October 2021, 09:36 | Updated: 30 October 2021, 09:50

George Eustice discussed carbon taxes
George Eustice discussed carbon taxes. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

New meat taxes appear to have been backed by the environment secretary ahead of the Cop26 climate talks.

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The idea, which could see the cost of meat rise, came as George Eustice said the UK would need to introduce carbon taxes in the future.

But farmers have warned if the same does not happen in other countries, British farmers would face going out of business.

Mr Eustice told the Telegraph that the Government is putting together a new system to tax parts of the food sector which are among the worst for the environment, including meat and dairy.

He said changes to the £3.5 billion subsidy given out by the EU for farmers would be altered to ensure they are incentivised to produce food that is more environmentally-friendly over the next seven years - but something would have to be implemented after.

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"Beyond that, you then start to move into the realms of things like carbon taxes. But we need to do the thinking about it now," he told the newspaper.

The minister also said carbon border taxes could be introduced to "encourage" places like Australia and New Zealand "to tackle their own greenhouse gas emissions" and plans to use trade for environmental causes "supposes that you would move in the direction of carbon emissions trading" in Britain's farming sector first.

But Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers' Union, told LBC's Andrew Castle: "If we start to tax farmers here and we don't expect the same of other countries that we are importing a lot more food from - we've just signed a deal obviously with New Zealand and with Australia - and we're planning to completely liberalise.

"So if you're going to tax farmers here, not tax farmers in other countries, that's just going to put our farmers out of business."

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The meat tax proposal comes ahead of the crucial UN climate talks in Glasgow.

Boris Johnson will welcome leaders to Cop26 in which it is hoped countries will agree to ways to ensure net zero carbon emissions by the middle of the century, limiting temperatures to a 1.5 degree rise.

It came as his official spokesman warned: "Cop26 needs to mark the beginning of the end of climate change.

"The next few days are a critical moment for world leaders to demonstrate that they can show the climate ambition needed.

"The success of COP26 still hangs in the balance.

"Too many countries are doing too little.”