New Zealand announces world-first plan to tax cow and sheep burps New Zealand has announced a plan to tax livestock burps in an effort to curb the country's greenhouse gas emissions. It would be the first time a country has done this.

New Zealand announces world-first plan to tax cow and sheep burps

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SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

You've heard of the carbon footprint. Today we have news on...

(SOUNDBITE OF COW MOOING)

PFEIFFER: ...The carbon hoofprint.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

NPR has reported over the years on novel ways researchers have tried to cut down on the methane that livestock animals release. Cows alone are responsible for about 40% of those planet-warming gases globally, mainly through their burps.

ERMIAS KEBRIAB: If you tell me how much your animal is consuming and what type of feed it's consuming, I can tell you pretty closely to the actual emissions using some mathematical models.

PFEIFFER: That's UC Davis scientist Ermias Kebriab. He spent two decades studying the greenhouse gas contributions of hoofed animals.

KEBRIAB: Most of the methane gas is formed in their stomach, particularly in the first chamber, the rumen. And so they belch it out.

PFEIFFER: He and other scientists have developed special diets and genetic predictions that could help reduce the methane formed in cow stomachs.

KELLY: Now, one country could be the very first to tax its way to fewer four-legged emissions - New Zealand.

(SOUNDBITE OF SHEEP BLEATING)

KELLY: There are seven times more sheep and cows than people in New Zealand. So on Wednesday, the country's government released a draft plan to have farmers pay for their animals' emissions starting in 2025. Past measures to tax farmers have not been popular, but New Zealand's climate change minister thinks this is a good start.

PFEIFFER: And Ermias Kebriab told our colleagues at the TED Radio Hour last month that tackling livestock emissions could be a game-changer for slowing climate change.

KEBRIAB: The reason that we really want to push on the reduction of methane emissions now is because we will see the results fairly quickly in the next 10 years or so.

KELLY: A final decision on New Zealand's plan is expected by the end of the year.

PFEIFFER: Maybe they'll call it a gas tax.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE MOO MOO SONG")

MOOGOOPI: (Singing) When you go to the mountains, you see the grazing cows.

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