It is almost unbelievable: the richest 1 percent of the world’s population, or about 80 million people, is responsible for as much CO2 emissions as two-thirds of all people on the planet, i.e. 5 billion.
That concludes non-profit organization Oxfam International, which also states that the richest group must quickly reduce its ecological footprint. Lead researcher Max Lawson: “The richer you are, the easier it is to reduce your emissions. You really don’t need that third car and you don’t need to go on holiday to a faraway country for the fourth time. There are also good and bad choices when it comes to investing money. There is no need to invest in the cement industry.”
The researchers base their findings on studies conducted by… Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) were collected. Their aim is mainly to map the average emissions caused by the consumption of all world citizens. And the differences between rich and poor are shockingly large.
3 degrees warming
Just before the COP28 summit in Dubai, climate studies are pouring in that should urge policymakers to take action. This is one of them. In combination with the average temperature on Earth, which rose more than 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels for the first time last week, the urgency does not seem to be missing. It is the latest low point in a long line of alarming climate news. The UN recently warned that the current climate policies of all countries may lead to a planet that will be almost 3 degrees warmer before the end of this century. This prediction will be reduced by half a degree if all ‘conditional climate goals’ for 2030 are achieved. The long-term goal of a maximum of 1.5 degrees – which scientists call the limit after which gigantic and irreversible climate damage is inevitable – already seems almost impossible to achieve.
And Oxfam’s study once again emphasizes that we must take matters into our own hands: the richest 80 million people, 1 percent of the world’s population, account for 16 percent of all CO2 emissions, as much as the poorest 66 percent. . Exactly how rich the top 1 percent is varies per country. In the US, the limit is an annual income of $140,000, while the equivalent for a Kenyan is about $40,000.
But the analysis within national borders also shows a grim picture. In France, for example, the richest 1 percent emit as much CO2 in a year as the poorest 50 percent do in ten years. If we do not look at the emissions linked to his investments, multi-billionaire Bernard Arnault, founder of Louis Vuitton and the richest man in France, has an ecological footprint that is 1,270 times that of the average French person.
The most important message from the Oxfam researchers is that the government must intervene strongly and that the measures must be progressive in nature. “If governments do not take action and implement progressive climate policies, in which the people who emit the most are also asked to make the greatest sacrifices, then politicians will not be able to really do anything about the climate problem,” thinks Lawson, who is a makes a number of concrete proposals, such as a tax on flying more than ten times a year and a tax on non-sustainable investments that is much higher than the tax on sustainable investments.
The polluter pays
And to think that the Oxfam report only looks at the CO2 emissions released by individual consumption. “The personal emissions of the extremely wealthy pale in comparison to the emissions resulting from their business investments,” the researchers write. In fact, billionaires are twice as likely to invest their money in polluting industries as the average investor in the S&P 500 – the index consisting of the five hundred largest American companies listed on Wall Street. It is high time to take stronger action against this, says Oxfam.