Richest 1% account for more carbon emissions than poorest 66%, as COP28 opens, a timely report by The Guardian, Oxfam, and the Stockholm Environment Institute reveals that the richest 1% of humanity is responsible for more carbon emissions than the poorest 66%, with dire consequences for vulnerable communities and global efforts to tackle the climate emergency.
The most comprehensive study of global climate inequality ever undertaken shows that this elite group, made up of 77 million people including billionaires, millionaires and those paid more than US$140,000 (£112,500) a year, accounted for 16% of all CO 2 emissions in 2019 – enough to cause more than a million excess deaths due to heat, according to the report. The special investigation called ‘The Great Carbon Divide‘ explores the causes and consequences of carbon inequality and the disproportionate impact of super-rich individuals, who have been termed “the polluter elite”. Climate justice will be high on the agenda of the UN COP28 climate summit from 30 November until 12 December 2023, at the Expo City, Dubai.
The Oxfam report shows that while the wealthiest 1% tend to live climate-insulated, air-conditioned lives, their emissions – 5.9bn tonnes of CO 2 in 2019 – are responsible for immense suffering.
The suffering falls disproportionately upon people living in poverty, marginalised ethnic communities, migrants and women and girls, who live and work outside or in homes vulnerable to extreme weather, according to the research. These groups are less likely to have savings, insurance or social protection, which leaves them more economically, as well as physically, at risk from floods, drought, heatwaves and forest fires. The UN says developing countries account for 91% of deaths related to extreme weather.
The report finds that it would take about 1,500 years for someone in the bottom 99% to produce as much carbon as the richest billionaires do in a year.
“The super-rich are plundering and polluting the planet to the point of destruction and it is those who can least afford it who are paying the highest price,” said Chiara Liguori, Oxfam’s senior climate justice policy adviser. The twin crises of climate and inequality were “fuelling one another”, she said.
Oxfam is calling for hefty wealth taxes on the super-rich and windfall taxes on fossil fuel companies to support the worst affected, reduce inequality and fund a transition to renewable energy. It says a 60% tax on the incomes of the wealthiest 1% would raise $6.4tn a year and could cut emissions by 695m tonnes, which is more than the 2019 footprint of the UK.
Oxfam International’s interim executive director, Amitabh Behar, said: “Not taxing wealth allows the richest to rob from us, ruin our planet and renege on democracy. Taxing extreme wealth transforms our chances to tackle both inequality and the climate crisis. These are trillions of dollars at stake to invest in dynamic 21st-century green governments, but also to re-inject into our democracies.”
You can read more about what ACE is doing here: ‘Tackling the Climate Crisis – Starting with Settle‘.