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BMJ Open 3:e003543 doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2013-003543
  • Public health
    • Research

Assessing the impact on chronic disease of incorporating the societal cost of greenhouse gases into the price of food: an econometric and comparative risk assessment modelling study

  1. Peter Scarborough1
  1. 1British Heart Foundation Health Promotion Research Group, Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  2. 2School of Agriculture, Policy and Development, University of Reading, Reading, UK
  3. 3Food Climate Research Network, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Adam Briggs; adam.briggs{at}dph.ox.ac.uk
  • Received 4 July 2013
  • Revised 5 September 2013
  • Accepted 24 September 2013
  • Published 22 October 2013

Abstract

Objectives To model the impact on chronic disease of a tax on UK food and drink that internalises the wider costs to society of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and to estimate the potential revenue.

Design An econometric and comparative risk assessment modelling study.

Setting The UK.

Participants The UK adult population.

Interventions Two tax scenarios are modelled: (A) a tax of £2.72/tonne carbon dioxide equivalents (tCO2e)/100 g product applied to all food and drink groups with above average GHG emissions. (B) As with scenario (A) but food groups with emissions below average are subsidised to create a tax neutral scenario.

Outcome measures Primary outcomes are change in UK population mortality from chronic diseases following the implementation of each taxation strategy, the change in the UK GHG emissions and the predicted revenue. Secondary outcomes are the changes to the micronutrient composition of the UK diet.

Results Scenario (A) results in 7770 (95% credible intervals 7150 to 8390) deaths averted and a reduction in GHG emissions of 18 683 (14 665to 22 889) ktCO2e/year. Estimated annual revenue is £2.02 (£1.98 to £2.06) billion. Scenario (B) results in 2685 (1966 to 3402) extra deaths and a reduction in GHG emissions of 15 228 (11 245to 19 492) ktCO2e/year.

Conclusions Incorporating the societal cost of GHG into the price of foods could save 7770 lives in the UK each year, reduce food-related GHG emissions and generate substantial tax revenue. The revenue neutral scenario (B) demonstrates that sustainability and health goals are not always aligned. Future work should focus on investigating the health impact by population subgroup and on designing fiscal strategies to promote both sustainable and healthy diets.

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 3.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

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