Ag Weather Forum

Denmark Becomes First Nation to Enact a Livestock Carbon Tax

Bryce Anderson
By  Bryce Anderson , Ag Meteorologist Emeritus
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Atmospheric methane content is almost 20% higher than it was 40 years ago and has more than doubled in the past 200 years. (NASA graphic)

Denmark is the world's first nation to announce plans for a carbon emissions tax on livestock. Starting in 2030, Danish livestock farmers will be taxed 300 kroner ($43) per ton of carbon dioxide equivalent. The tax will increase to 750 kroner ($108) by 2035. Producers will receive an income tax deduction of 60% however, which will reduce the actual tax per ton to a start of 120 kroner ($17.30) and increase to 300 kroner ($43) per ton of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2035.

The goal is to reduce Denmark's greenhouse gas emissions by 70% from 1990 levels, according to the country's taxation minister.

The primary target of the new tax is the emission of methane from livestock. Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas on a 20-year time scale than carbon dioxide. U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) research has found that methane traps 87 times more heat on a 20-year time scale than carbon dioxide. Atmospheric methane content has more than doubled in the past 200 years, and the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) estimates that more than 60% of today's methane emissions are the result of human activities -- including livestock production.

A report on the new Danish livestock tax by National Public Radio makes the point that "Almost all of the methane from raising livestock, some 90%, comes from the way they digest, through fermentation, and is released as burps through their mouths. Cows make up most of this belched methane. Most of the remaining 10% of livestock methane comes off manure ponds on both pig and cattle operations." Denmark has approximately 1.5 million head of cattle.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) describes the global livestock-methane situation this way: "A single cow produces between 154 to 264 pounds of methane gas per year. Not counting for the emissions of any other livestock, 1.5 billion cattle, raised specifically for meat production worldwide, emit at least 231 billion pounds of methane into the atmosphere each year."

The news of the Denmark livestock carbon tax comes at a time when the regulatory framework for U.S. environmental policy is facing major changes. On Friday June 28, the U.S. Supreme Court in a 6-3 ruling overturned a 40-year-old legal precedent known as the Chevron deference that had granted agencies broad authority to interpret laws and decide the best way to apply them.

More coverage from DTN on the Supreme Court's Chevron deference decision is available here:

USDA P&S Act Reforms Face Longer Odds After Supreme Court Ruling (

Bryce Anderson can be reached at


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