COPENHAGEN - Denmark will charge farmers up to $100 (£80) for every cow in a world-first carbon tax on agriculture as the country tries to encourage people to eat less meat to tackle climate change.

Agriculture is the largest emitting sector in Denmark, a major pork and dairy exporter and the government hopes the tax will help it reach its goals of cutting emissions by 70 per cent this decade.

It will establish a fund with proceeds from the tax to help farmers go green and has put £58 million into feed additives to cut methane emissions from cows.

The new tax, which was agreed upon after negotiations with farming and green groups, will impose a levy of £13.50 per ton of CO2 in 2030, rising to £85 in 2035 although a 60 per cent rebate will be applied.

That will add an initial cost of around £80 per dairy cow, which emits an average of six tonnes of CO2 equivalent, according to Danish green think tank Concito, which cites a Danish government working group.

It could add an extra cost of 23p per kilo of minced beef, according to Denmark’s Minister for Economic Affairs Stephanie Lose.

She said the law would herald “a historic reorganisation and restructuring of Denmark’s land and food production.”

Although the law was passed after negotiations between the main food and farming trade bodies, as well as it, and its largest environmental organisation, it was criticised by some farming groups. Farmers organisation Bæredygtigt Landbrug told the Financial Times that the agreement was crazy and showed that the Government was not listening to farmers.

Torsten Hasforth from Concito said there were some concerns the new law could undercut Danish farmers by increasing imports but the view had been taken that “someone has to start”.

“The whole idea is to spur innovation and solutions from the sector,” he said. “This is an attempt to try something that actually ends up reducing emissions.”

Denmark has one of the highest rates of beef consumption in the world, and the government has some of the most ambitious policies to encourage plant-based eating.

Pork, also very popular in Denmark, emits less but would also be subject to the carbon tax.

Last year Denmark published a world-first plan for how to incentivise the production and consumption of more vegetables and alternative proteins. It came after the government changed national guidelines to reduce meat consumption in line with recommendations for environmentally sustainable diets.

But Danes are less enthusiastic about meat alternatives and say they are less likely to reduce their meat consumption in the near future, compared to other Europeans, according to research from the University of Copenhagen.

Mette Frederiksen, the Danish prime minister, reportedly said she hoped the new tax would pave the way for similar levies elsewhere in the future.

UK Government ministers have previously floated the idea of a tax on British agriculture but backed away from the levies in recent proposals to extend its carbon tax regime.

The European Union has also held discussions about including agriculture in its carbon emissions trading system, but any move would likely face significant opposition from farming groups, who have staged protests across the bloc in recent months.