Air Pollution

Why Denmark has taxed cattle burps and farts?    


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Why Are Methane Emissions a Problem?

Mains level: Significance of tax

Why in the news?

Denmark will impose a tax on its livestock farmers for the greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted by their cows, sheep, and pigs from 2030.

What is it?

Denmark plans to impose a tax on livestock farmers for greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted by their cows, sheep, and pigs starting in 2030.

  • Tax Rates: Farmers would initially pay about $43 per metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent produced by their livestock, increasing to around $108 by 2035.
  • Actual Cost: Due to a 60% income tax deduction, the actual cost per ton will start at 120 kroner ($17.3) and rise to 300 kroner ($43) by 2035.
  • Use of Tax Collection: The funds collected from the tax between 2030 and 2031 will be returned to the industry to support its green transition. The handling of proceeds will be revisited in 2032. The proposal includes the development of over 600,000 acres of new forest areas.

How Do Cows and Sheep Produce Methane?

  • Ruminants like cows, sheep, goats, and buffaloes have a specialized digestive system with four stomach compartments, including the rumen. In the rumen, partially digested food ferments, producing methane.
  • Methane is released primarily through burping and farting as the animals regurgitate and chew cud to complete the digestive process. Ruminant digestive systems are responsible for 27% of all methane emissions from human activity.

Why Are Methane Emissions a Problem?

  • Climate Impact: Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, responsible for 30% of warming since preindustrial times, second only to carbon dioxide. Over a 20-year period, methane is 80 times more potent at warming than carbon dioxide.
  • Ground-Level Ozone: Methane is the primary contributor to ground-level ozone formation, a highly irritating gas just above the Earth’s surface, contributing to 1 million premature deaths annually.
  • Rising Levels: Atmospheric methane levels have dramatically increased in recent years, with the NOAA reporting a record 17 parts per billion increase in 2021, surpassing the previous record set in 2020.

Way forward: 

  • Dietary Adjustments: Introduce feed additives, such as seaweed or other natural supplements, that can reduce methane emissions during digestion in ruminants. This approach can significantly lower methane production without negatively impacting livestock health or productivity.
  • Improved Manure Management: Utilize advanced manure management practices, such as anaerobic digestion, to capture and convert methane emissions from decomposing animal waste into biogas. This not only reduces methane emissions but also provides a renewable energy source.

Mains PYQ: 

Q Describe the major outcomes of the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). What are the commitments made by India in this conference? (UPSC IAS/2021)

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