Major new report highlights out-sized carbon impact of the world's richest people
A new report by Oxfam has laid bare the startling inequality between rich and poor when it comes to carbon emissions, concluding that the carbon emissions from the richest one per cent are more than double the emissions from the entire poorest half of the world's population.
The report, Confronting Carbon Inequality, found while the richest 10 per cent of the world's population - which amounts to around 630 million predominantly living in the most industrialised nations - accounted for just over half of the world's carbon dioxide emissions, the the richest one per cent accounted for 15 per cent of emissions - more than twice that of the poorest half of humanity, which contributed just seven per cent of global emissions each year.
Oxfam said that the over-consumption of a small minority was "putting the planet in peril".
The research was conducted with the Stockholm Environment Institute and assesses the consumption emissions of different income groups between 1990 and 2015, during which time the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere doubled. It has been released as world leaders prepare to meet at the UN General Assembly this week to discuss a raft of global challenges, including the climate crisis.
Danny Sriskandarajah, chief executive of Oxfam in the UK, said: "Extreme carbon inequality is a direct consequence of the decades-long pursuit by governments and businesses of grossly unequal and carbon intensive economic growth whatever the cost."
While the report highlighted how the distribution of carbon emissions may be unequal in favour of the very rich, Oxfam stressed that the impacts of climate change are also unequal, but in a very different way.
The group pointed to recent deadly cyclones in India and Bangladesh, huge locust swarms that have devastated crops across Africa, and unprecedented heatwaves and wildfires across Australia and the US - all of which have occurred in 2020 and have tended to have disproportionate impacts on poorer communities. The UK, meanwhile, has seen some of its hottest temperatures and worst floods exacerbated by the changing climate, it added.
The charity is calling for an increase in wealth taxes and new carbon taxes on luxury items, including private jets and super yachts, as well as carbon-intensive SUVs and frequent flights. The revenue generated should then be invested in helping poor communities around the world adapt to the changing climate, while also supporting efforts to create new low-carbon jobs such in fields such as social care sector and green public transport.
"Climate change is already causing immense hardship for many people," Sriskandarajah added. "To prevent greater suffering, we need bold and urgent action to radically cut emissions before it's too late."
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