REPORT: World’s Richest 1% Emit as Much Carbon as the Bottom Two-Thirds

According to Oxfam International, the richest one percent of the world’s population is responsible for the same amount of carbon emissions as the world’s poorest two-thirds, or five billion people.

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While combating the climate issue is a shared challenge, not everyone bears equal responsibility, and government policies must be tailored accordingly, according to Max Lawson, co-author of the report.

“The richer you are, the easier it is to cut both your personal and your investment emissions,” he said. “You don’t need that third car, or that fourth holiday, or you don’t need to be invested in the cement industry.”

“Climate Equality: A Planet for the 99%” is based on information compiled by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and examines consumption emissions related with various income levels up to the year 2019.

It was released as world leaders prepare to convene in Dubai for climate negotiations at the COP28 summit later this month. Concerns are mounting that preventing long-term warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius may soon become unachievable.

Among the study’s significant results is that the world’s richest one percent (77 million people) were responsible for 16 percent of global emissions connected to their consumption.

That is the same as the bottom 66% of the global population in terms of income, or 5.11 billion people.

The income threshold for being in the top one percent of the world was adjusted by country using purchasing power parity; for example, the criterion in the United States would be $140,000, whereas the Kenyan counterpart would be around $40,000.

Within-country investigations showed similarly harsh views.

In France, for example, the richest 1% emits as much carbon in one year as the lowest 50% do in ten.

Bernard Arnault, the millionaire founder of Louis Vuitton and France’s richest man, has a carbon footprint 1,270 times bigger than the typical Frenchman, excluding the carbon linked with his investments.

According to Lawson, the essential lesson was that policy efforts must be progressive.

“We think that unless governments enact climate policy that is progressive, where you see the people who emit the most being asked to take the biggest sacrifices, then we’re never going to get good politics around this,” he said.

These measures could include, for example, a tax on more than ten flights per year or a tax on non-green investments that is far greater than the tax on green investments.

While the present analysis focuses solely on carbon associated with individual consumption, “the personal consumption of the super-rich is dwarfed by emissions resulting from their investments in companies,” the report discovered.

Neither are the affluent invested in polluting businesses in the same proportion as any other investor; billionaires are twice as likely to be invested in polluting companies as the average for the S&P 500, according to earlier Oxfam data.

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