Wealthiest 1% Responsible for Same Carbon Emissions as Bottom 66%, Report Finds

While the current report focused on carbon linked only to individual consumption, "the personal consumption of the super-rich is dwarfed by emissions resulting from their investments in companies," the report found.

A new report has revealed a stark disparity in carbon emissions, with the top one percent of earners globally emitting as much carbon as the bottom 66 percent, equivalent to around five billion people. This alarming data has been highlighted in a report titled ‘Climate Equality: A Planet for the 99%’ shared exclusively with CTV National News, and published by Oxfam International.

The Disproportionate Impact of the Wealthy

The study, drawing data from the Stockholm Environment Institute, underscores the significant role the super-rich play in driving the climate crisis. According to Ian Thomson, Policy Manager at Oxfam Canada, the emissions from this group alone could lead to an additional 1.3 million deaths over this century due to climate change.

“The super rich are really the cause of the climate crisis,” Thomson stated, emphasizing the urgent need for substantial taxes on income, wealth, and corporate profits to address this inequity.

A Gulfstream G650 private jet takes off from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) as seen from El Segundo, California; Oxfam is calling for a progressive climate policy that taxes the wealthiest carbon emitters at a higher rate © Patrick T. Fallon / AFP/File

A Global Issue Requiring Progressive Solutions

With global temperatures setting records in 2023 and the European Space Agency declaring it “virtually certain” to be the warmest year on record, the report comes at a critical time. Katharine Hayhoe, chief scientist of Nature United, stresses that every fraction of a degree in temperature rise has severe and tangible impacts.

“Every tenth of a degree saves someone’s house from flooding, someone’s crops from being lost,” Hayhoe explained, advocating for policies that target the wealthy’s disproportionate emissions.

The report reveals that in 2019, the top one percent, with a minimum income threshold varying by country, contributed 16 percent of global carbon emissions. This is on par with the emissions from the poorest 66 percent of humanity. In countries like France, the emission disparity within the nation is even more pronounced.

The Billionaire Factor and Investment Emissions

Max Lawson, co-author of the report, highlighted that the rich could significantly cut their personal and investment emissions. The study found that the wealthiest individuals, especially billionaires, are more likely to invest in polluting industries. For instance, European private jets, a symbol of extreme wealth, emitted a total of 5.3 million tonnes of CO2 between 2020 and 2023.

However, it’s not just their lavish lifestyles but their investment choices that exacerbate the crisis. “When you unpack their investments, we find those are where the climate heating emissions really start to ramp up,” said Thomson.

Climate activists attend a rally to end fossil fuels, in New York, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)

Calls for Tax Reforms and Equitable Policies

The Oxfam report advocates for a wealth tax and a broad windfall corporate profits tax, which could potentially raise significant funds for combating the climate crisis. A tax on the incomes of the super-rich globally could cut the carbon equivalent of the total 2019 emissions of the U.K., raising substantial funds for renewable energy and a transition away from fossil fuels.

Hayhoe also suggests a price on pollution, with revenues redistributed to middle and low-income households. “Solutions for climate can also be solutions for justice and equity,” she noted.

A Wake-Up Call for Climate Justice

The report serves as a wake-up call on climate justice, highlighting the need for progressive climate policies that address the stark inequalities in carbon emissions. As world leaders prepare for the COP28 summit, this report underscores the critical need for policies that target those most responsible for climate change.


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