Country Plans First Tax on Cow, Sheep Burps



New Zealand is looking into slapping a tax on one of the country’s main sources of greenhouse-gas emissions: The livestock that outnumber human New Zealanders by more than seven to one. Agriculture accounts for around half the country’s emissions, mainly methane produced by the burps of sheep and cows, the Washington Post reports. The country, home to around 5 million people, has 26 million sheep and 10 million cows. Agriculture previously wasn’t included in the country’s emissions-trading scheme. The governement says money collected under the plan will be used for research and other services for farmers.

The first-of-its-kind plan would go into effect in 2025, though there are still some details to work out and final approval isn’t expected until later this year at the earliest. Dairy farmer Andrew Hoggard, president of Federated Farmers of New Zealand, tells the BBC that he broadly approves of the plan. “We’ve been working with the government and other organizations on this for years to get an approach that won’t shut down farming in New Zealand, so we’ve signed off on a lot of stuff we’re happy with,” he says. “But you know, like all of these types of agreements with many parties involved, there’s always going to be a couple of dead rats you have to swallow.”

The plan includes incentives for farmers who plant trees on their land or use feed additives to reduce emissions, per Reuters. UC Davis scientist Ermias Kebreab has been studying the issue for decades and is among those developing diets that can reduce emissions from cattle. “If you tell me how much your animal is consuming, I can tell you pretty closely to the actual emissions using mathematical models,” he tells NPR. “Most of the gas is formed in their stomach, so in their guts, particularly in the first chamber. And so they belch it out.” (Read more New Zealand stories.)

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