Nations are trying different options to reduce emissions and capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But among these efforts a part of the population is putting their input in further polluting the planet. And to understand this, Oxfam’s report unveils the differences between the CO2 footprint of the rich and the poor. Report urges global focus on reducing emissions from the super-rich, proposes 60% tax on their incomes to fund renewable energy transition and combat climate change.
According to a new report by Oxfam, the wealthiest 1 percent of the global population contributed more carbon pollution in 2019 than the combined emissions of the poorest two-thirds of humanity, totaling five billion people. This alarming finding is unveiled just before the UN climate summit in Dubai, where concerns are mounting that achieving the goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5° C is becoming increasingly difficult.
The excessive emissions from the wealthiest 1 percent of the population are poised to result in around 1.3 million deaths due to heat-related causes. This alarming figure is nearly equivalent to the entire population of Dublin, Ireland. Most of these tragic fatalities are projected to occur within the span of the next decade, between 2020 and 2030.
Amitabh Behar, interim Executive Director of Oxfam International, said, “The super-rich are plundering and polluting the planet to the point of destruction, leaving humanity choking on extreme heat, floods and drought.”
Director Behar further added, “For years we’ve fought to end the era of fossil fuels to save millions of lives and our planet. It’s clearer than ever this will be impossible until we, too, end the era of extreme wealth.”
Climate Equality: A Planet for the 99%” is a report based on extensive research conducted by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI). It thoroughly examines the consumption emissions of various income groups, using the most up-to-date data from the year 2019.
The report unveils the huge gap between the carbon footprints due to the lifestyle differences between the rich and the poor. It also covers the investments made by rich populations in polluting industries like fossil fuels.
Important highlights from the report are as follows:
- In 2019, the richest 1 percent, which is around 77 million people, were responsible for 16 percent of global consumption emissions. This is more than the emissions caused by all cars and road transportation combined. The richest 10 percent, on the other hand, accounted for 50 percent of the emissions.
- The carbon emissions produced by the wealthiest billionaires in just one year exceed what an individual from the bottom 99 percent would produce in approximately 1,500 years.
- The yearly emissions of the wealthiest 1 percent effectively nullify the carbon savings generated by almost one million wind turbines.
- The wealthiest 1 percent have consumed double the amount of carbon we have remaining to burn, without surpassing the critical threshold of 1.5° C, while the less fortunate half of humanity has only used half as much.
- By 2030, the carbon emissions produced by the wealthiest 1 percent is expected to be around 22 times higher than what is considered acceptable to achieve the crucial 1.5° C target stipulated by the Paris Agreement.
Oxfam’s report unveils the differences between the CO2 footprint of the rich and the poor and how climate change worsens inequality. These further impacts those in poverty, women, girls, Indigenous communities, and Global South countries the most. Oxfam has witnessed first-hand how these groups bear the brunt of climate impacts, which further intensify the divide. The report highlights that in more unequal countries, seven times more people die from floods. Climate breakdown perpetuates inequality, both among and within nations.
To address the intertwined challenges of inequality and climate change, governments should focus their efforts on curbing the excessive emissions of the super-rich. Simultaneously, they should prioritize investment in public services and strive to achieve their climate goals.
According to Oxfam’s calculations, implementing a 60 percent tax on the incomes of the wealthiest 1 percent would result in a remarkable reduction in emissions. In fact, this reduction would surpass the total emissions of the entire United Kingdom. Not only that, but this initiative would also generate around $6.4 trillion (about $20,000 per person in the US) annually. These funds would then be allocated towards facilitating the much-needed shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.
In this context, Director Behar added, “We must make the connection explicitly. Not taxing wealth allows the richest to rob 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.”
Oxfam’s report unveils the differences between the CO2 footprint of the rich and the poor but also include points mentioned in the report regarding Oxfam’s advice to the government are as follows:
- Let us prioritize the well-being of both humanity and our planet, valuing them above relentless pursuit of profit, extraction, and consumption. It is time to challenge the notion that GDP growth alone defines human progress.
- Oxfam proposes to reduce inequality by redistributing incomes on a global scale. This would allow everyone in poverty to have a minimum daily income of $25, while also decreasing global emissions by 10%.
- We need to rapidly and fairly shift away from fossil fuels. Wealthy countries have contributed more to global warming and should reduce oil and gas production at a faster rate. Implementing taxes on corporations and billionaires can support the transition to renewable energy.