A recent report by Oxfam has revealed that the world’s richest 1 percent produce as much carbon pollution as the poorest 5 billion people, who make up two-thirds of humanity. This highlights the deep gap between the carbon footprint of the super-rich and the majority of people around the world. The richest 10 percent are responsible for half of CO₂ emissions, with each year’s emissions of this group wiping out the carbon dioxide savings of nearly a million wind turbines.
Oxfam’s “Climate Equality: A Planet for the 99%” report is based on research in collaboration with a Swedish research institute, the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), and assesses consumption emissions of different income groups in 2019, the most recent year for which data is available. The report shows that people in the bottom 99 percent emit an average of just 4.1 tons of carbon per year, while individuals in the top 1 percent emit an average of 8,194 tons of greenhouse gases per year.
According to SEI, this means that a person in the bottom 99 percent emits only about one-third as much carbon as a typical individual in the top 1 percent. The organization calculated that a 60 percent tax on the incomes of the richest 1 percent would reduce CO₂ emissions by more than Britain’s total emissions and raise $6.4 trillion annually to support transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
The gap between rich and poor is only widening as people in developing countries feel increasingly vulnerable to climate change consequences such as rising sea levels and extreme weather events. To address these challenges, Oxfam calls for greater international cooperation to end extreme wealth inequality and ensure that all members of society have access to affordable clean energy solutions.