A combined carbon and sugar tax could have environmental and health benefits

February 2, 2016, BioMed Central
Sugar

A combination of a carbon tax on food and a tax on sugary drinks in the UK could lead to health benefits, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and raise up to GB£3.6 billion revenue, according to research published in the open access journal BMC Public Health.

Lead researcher, Adam Briggs from the University of Oxford, said: "Agriculture is responsible for up to 30% of global greenhouse and those arising from production have negative effects that aren't borne by the individual buying the food, but by society as a whole. Examples include the effects of global warming from extreme weather, changing global disease patterns, and airborne pollution, as well as changes to food production patterns and overall availability of energy resources.

"Some studies have found that diets low in greenhouse gases are also better for health, mainly arising from people eating less meat and more plants. However, some foods buck this trend, for example sugar is low in greenhouse gas emissions yet bad for health. To counter this problem, we modelled the effects of a food carbon-tax alongside a 20% tax on sugary soft drinks. We estimated the effect on food purchases"

Researchers from the University of Oxford and the University of Reading modeled four different tax scenarios to investigate the environmental, health and economic effects they these scenarios could have in the UK. The first scenario was a model that involved a carbon tax of GB£2.86 per tonne of carbon dioxide on all foods that produced emissions higher than the average for all food groups. The second model had the same carbon tax on all foods that produced emissions higher than the average and subsidies for foods that were below the average. Both these scenarios were then tested with an additional 20% tax on all . Using modelled data allows for predictions to be made about cause and effect.

The results of modeling all tax scenarios predicted a decrease in the purchase of beef, lamb and other meats. There was, however, a predicted increase in purchases of pork and poultry. All scenarios also predicted delayed or averted deaths mostly from heart disease and cancer. The researchers attribute this to increased fiber intake and changes to fat consumption.

The scenarios that included subsidies on low greenhouse gas emission foods predicted an increase in consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables and a decrease in purchases of cream, cheese and eggs. The researchers suggest the increased purchase of fruits and vegetables in these scenarios would result in more deaths being delayed or averted.

All scenarios predicted a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of between 16.5 and 18.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. The two scenarios that did not included subsidies for low emission food generated revenues of GB£3 billion and GB£3.4 billion, the higher figure being due to the additional sugary drink tax. However, sales taxes are regressive so the two scenarios with subsidies were designed to be revenue neutral and militate against this.

Adam Briggs said: "Our study demonstrates that a food carbon tax could have meaningful effects on emissions without harming health. Small tweaks to the design of the tax, such as a tax on soft drinks, can result in significant improvements to population health without dramatically reducing the effect on emission reductions. A well designed could be an important addition to policies aimed at reducing UK ."

Explore further: Sugary drinks tax in Mexico linked with 12 percent cut in sales after one year

More information: Adam D. M. Briggs et al. Simulating the impact on health of internalising the cost of carbon in food prices combined with a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, BMC Public Health (2016). DOI: 10.1186/s12889-016-2723-8

Related Stories

Sugary drinks tax in Mexico linked with 12 percent cut in sales after one year

January 7, 2016
In Mexico, a 10% tax on sugar sweetened drinks has been associated with an overall 12% reduction in sales and a 4% increase in purchases of untaxed beverages one year after implementation, finds a study published by The BMJ ...

Taxing the dose of calories in sugary drinks could help reduce obesity

July 16, 2015
A tax on sugary drinks that depends on the number of calories or amount of sugar per liter could help fight obesity, suggests new research published in Social Science & Medicine. While a few countries are already trialing ...

20 percent 'fat tax' needed to improve population health: experts

May 15, 2012
Taxes on unhealthy food and drinks would need to be at least 20% to have a significant effect on diet-related conditions such as obesity and heart disease, say experts in the British Medical Journal today. Ideally, this should ...

Recommended for you

Accurate measurements of sodium intake confirm relationship with mortality

June 21, 2018
Eating foods high in salt is known to contribute to high blood pressure, but does that linear relationship extend to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and death? Recent cohort studies have contested that relationship, ...

Fans of yoga therapy have yet to win over doctors

June 21, 2018
Yoga practitioners often tout the unique health benefits of the ancient discipline—from relieving stress and pain to improving vascular health—but most doctors remain sceptical in the absence of hard proof.

Fruit and vegetables linked to changes in skin colour, new research finds

June 21, 2018
Skin colour in young Caucasian men is strongly linked to high levels of fruit and vegetable consumption, new research by Curtin University has found.

What a pain: The iPad neck plagues women more

June 20, 2018
Is your iPad being a literal pain in the neck?

Medicaid work requirements and health savings accounts may impact people's coverage

June 20, 2018
Current experimental approaches in Medicaid programs—including requirements to pay premiums, contribute to health savings accounts, or to work—may lead to unintended consequences for patient coverage and access, such ...

Introduction of alcohol found to adversely impact fertility rates in hunter-gatherer community

June 19, 2018
Fernando Ramirez Rozzi, a research director with the French National Centre for Scientific Research has found that the introduction of alcohol to a Baka pygmy hunter-gatherer society caused fertility rates to fall. In his ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.