The world’s 77 million richest people are responsible for as much carbon pollution as the poorest 5 billion people, who make up two-thirds of humanity, according to a report published by Oxfam on Monday. This is a stark reminder of the gap between rich and poor when it comes to environmental impact.
The study, titled “Climate Equality: A Planet for the 99%,” was conducted in collaboration with the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and assesses consumption emissions of different income groups in 2019. The findings show that the richest 10 percent were responsible for half of CO₂ emissions, while each year, the emissions of the richest 1 percent would wipe out the carbon dioxide savings of nearly a million wind turbines.
This highlights the importance of addressing inequality in order to tackle climate change effectively. Amitabh Behar, interim director of Oxfam International, stated that ending extreme wealth is necessary before it is possible to end our dependence on fossil fuels and save millions of lives and our planet.
According to SEI, a person in the bottom 99 percent emits an average of 4.1 tons of carbon per year, while a person in the top 1 percent emits an average of 832 tons per year. The emissions gap between rich and poor is only widening due to climate change impacts felt particularly acutely by countries in the South.
Oxfam calculated that implementing a tax on the incomes of the richest 1 percent would reduce CO₂ emissions by more than UK’s total emissions and raise $6.4 trillion annually to support transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. Therefore, it is clear that addressing inequality must be at the forefront of any effective climate action plan.