The wealthiest 1% of people on Earth, or five billion people, contribute twice as much to carbon emissions as the poorest two-thirds of the population, according to a report by the nonprofit organization Oxfam International. This is an alarming discrepancy in carbon emissions.
The study underlines the need for tailored government measures to address these disparities in the fight against climate change.
Based on data from the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), the article “Climate Equality: A Planet for the 99%” illustrates the unequal distribution of emissions associated with different socioeconomic groups up to 2019. It makes clear how crucial income levels are in influencing the impact on the environment.
The research estimates that 16% of global emissions connected to consumption are attributable to the wealthiest 1% of the population, or 77 million individuals. Based on income, this equates to the emissions of 5.11 billion people, or 66% of the global population.
The income level of the top 1% globally varies by country and is adjusted for purchasing power parity.
Within-country analysis clarifies the discrepancies even further.
The richest 1% of earnings in France, for instance, emits the same amount of carbon in a year as the poorest 50% do in ten. Bernard Arnault, France’s wealthiest man and the man behind Louis Vuitton, has 1,270 times more carbon footprint than the average French individual when emissions from assets are excluded from the calculation.
Max Lawson, a co-author of the paper, highlights the need of progressive climate policies. Two of his suggestions are to tax frequent travel or to charge differentially for investments made in green and non-green categories. The study suggests that effective rules should ensure that those with higher emissions are need to make bigger sacrifices.
While the research focuses on carbon associated with human consumption, it notes that emissions from the ultra-rich’s investments outweigh their own emissions. Prior studies conducted by Oxfam have shown that millionaires are more likely than average investors to make investments in environmentally harmful industries.