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Top 1% match bottom 66% in global carbon emissions

The Report

A report by Oxfam International reveals that the wealthiest 1% of the global population is responsible for emitting the same amount of carbon as the poorest two-thirds, or five billion people. Titled “Climate Equality: A Planet for the 99%,” the report is based on research conducted by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and examines consumption emissions associated with different income groups up to 2019. The study’s findings indicate that the top 1% globally, consisting of 77 million individuals, contributed to 16% of global emissions related to their consumption—equivalent to the emissions produced by the bottom 66% of the global population, or 5.11 billion people.

The report stresses that while addressing the climate crisis is a collective challenge, not all individuals bear equal responsibility, and government policies should be designed accordingly. Max Lawson, co-author of the report, emphasizes the greater ease for wealthier individuals to reduce both personal and investment emissions, highlighting the unnecessary consumption patterns associated with high-income lifestyles.

Analysis

Country-specific analyses within the report underscore the stark disparities. For instance, in France, the richest 1% emits as much carbon in one year as the poorest 50% over a decade. The study suggests that climate policy actions must be progressive, involving sacrifices from those who emit the most. Proposed measures include taxes on frequent flying or differentiating taxes on green and non-green investments. The report argues that without such progressive policies, achieving effective climate action and garnering public support will be challenging.

It’s time for action

Notably, the report focuses solely on carbon emissions linked to individual consumption and acknowledges that emissions from the investments of the super-rich significantly exceed their personal consumption-related emissions. The wealthy are found to be twice as likely to invest in polluting industries compared to the average investor in the Standard & Poor 500. The release of this report precedes the COP28 summit in Dubai, where global leaders will gather for climate talks.

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