The richest 1% of humanity emits more carbon than the poorest 66%, a report says, with dire consequences for vulnerable communities and global efforts to combat the climate emergency.
The most comprehensive study ever into global climate inequality shows that this elite group of 77 million people, which includes billionaires, millionaires and those with an annual salary of more than $140,000 (£112,500), accounts for 50% of CO2 emissions 16%2 Emissions in 2019 were enough to cause more than 1 million heat-related deaths, the report said.
Over the past six months, The Guardian has worked with Oxfamthis Stockholm Environment Institute and other experts exclusively conducted a special investigation into “The Great Carbon Divide.” It explores the causes and consequences of carbon inequality and the disproportionate impact of the super-rich, known as the “polluter elite.” Climate justice will feature prominently on the agenda of the United Nations Conference of the Parties 28 climate summit this month in the United Arab Emirates.
this Oxfam report shows that while the richest 1% tend to live climate-proof, air-conditioned lives, they emit 5.9 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide2 2019 – caused tremendous suffering.
The report uses the “cost of death” formula used by the US Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies to calculate that every million tons of carbon will cause 226 excess deaths globally, calculating that only 1% of emissions are enough to cause high temperatures. 1.3 million people will die in the coming decades.
Between 1990 and 2019, this 1% of cumulative emissions was equivalent to destroying last year’s EU corn, US wheat, Bangladeshi rice and Chinese soybean harvests.
Research shows that poor people, marginalized ethnic communities, immigrants, and women and girls who live and work outdoors or in households vulnerable to extreme weather are suffering disproportionately. These groups are less likely to have savings, insurance or social security. protection, putting them at greater risk, both economically and physically, of floods, droughts, heat waves and forest fires. United Nations says Developing countries account for 91% of extreme weather-related deaths.
The report found that it would take the bottom 99 percent about 1,500 years to produce as much carbon as the richest billionaires produce in a year.
Chiara Liguori, senior climate justice policy adviser at Oxfam, said: “The super-rich are pillaging and polluting the planet to the point of destruction, while those least able to afford it are paying the highest price.” Inequality is “reinforcing each other,” she said.
The gap between rich and poor countries only partly explains this difference. The report shows that in 2019 (the latest year for which comprehensive data are available) high-income countries (mainly in the northern hemisphere) accounted for 40% of global consumption CO.2 emissions, while the contribution of low-income countries (mainly countries in the Southern Hemisphere) is only 0.4%, which is negligible. Africa, which has about one-sixth of the world’s population, accounts for only 4% of emissions.
A less discussed but faster-growing issue is inequality within countries. Billionaires are still overwhelmingly white, male, and live in the United States and Europe, but members of this influential class of the super-rich are increasingly found in other parts of the world. It’s even more scattered.
According to reports, this is bad news for the climate on many levels. From superyachts, private jets and mansions to space flights and doomsday bunkers, the massive carbon footprint created by the 0.1% of humanity is 77 times greater than the cap required for global warming. The peak value is at 1.5C.
Many of the ultra-rich’s company stocks are High pollutionAccording to the report, these elites also control a huge and growing amount of money by owning media organizations and social networks, hiring advertising and public relations agencies and lobbyists, and socializing with senior politicians, often members of the wealthiest 1%. political power.
For example, in the United States, one in four members of Congress reportedly owns shares in fossil fuel companies, worth a total of US$33 million and US$93 millionThis helps explain why global emissions continue to rise and why Northern Hemisphere governments provided $1.8 trillion in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry in 2020, running counter to their international commitments to phase out carbon emissions, the report said.
Oxfam is calling for a high wealth tax on the super-rich and a windfall tax on fossil fuel companies to support the most affected, reduce inequality and fund the transition to renewable energy. It said a 60% tax on the income of the top 1% would raise $6.4 trillion a year and reduce emissions by 695 million tonnes, more than the UK’s carbon emissions in 2019.
Amitabh Behar, interim executive director of Oxfam International, said: “Not taxing wealth allows the richest to rob us, destroy our planet and violate democracy. Taxing extreme wealth can change Our opportunity to address inequality and the climate crisis. These are trillions of dollars in wealth.” Invest in vibrant 21st century green government while also re-injecting our democracies. “