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Richest 1% Emit Same as 66% of World’s Poorest: Oxfam

The level of emission caused by the 1% super-rich in 2019 alone is enough to kill 1.3 million people due to heat.
The level of emission caused by the 1% super-rich in 2019 alone is enough to kill 1.3 million people due to heat.

Image Courtesy: Flickr

Climate breakdown and inequality are linked together and fuel each other. If we are to overcome one, we must overcome both. The richest 1% of the world’s population are responsible for as much carbon pollution as the people who make up the poorest two-thirds of humanity. They have stolenour planet’s resources to fuel their lavish lifestyles. A short trip on a private jet will produce more carbon than the average person emits all year. They are sacrificing us at the altar of their greed,” wrote Greta Thunberg, the young climate activist who has challenged world leaders to take immediate action for climate change.

Thunberg’s touching words appeared in a foreword of a report by Oxfam on the same topic—how world’s richest are fuelling the climate crisis.

Called ‘Climate Equality: A Planet for the 99%’, the report states that in 2019, the world’s 1% super rich accounted for 16% of global carbon emissions, the same caused by the world’s poorest 66% (nearly five billion people). 

What the super-rich do affect most of humanity, but they tend to live in climate insulated, air-conditioned atmosphere with less suffering. The 5.9 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted by the miniscule super-rich in 2019 is the cause of immense sufferings for most of us.

Oxfam clearly states that while the richest see their wealth grow relentlessly, the basic needs of food and shelter are getting increasingly pricier for the ordinary people of the world—especially, women, people of colour, the indigenous, including other marginalised groups, are at the receiving end of the climate breakdown. Future generations are going to face the worst of the consequences of climate crisis, but the white billionaires are the winners, the report says.

The glaring inequality in sufferings and contribution to climate breakdown are not to be seen separately as the poor will bear the brunt more severely with the deepening climate crisis.

Climate inequality Numbers in the Oxfam report:

  1. Since the 1990s, the super-rich 1% burned through twice as much of the carbon budget as the poorest half of humanity combined.”

  2. The emissions of richest 1% is on the track to be more than 22 times the safe limit, that is the permissible emission if the warming is to be limited under 1.5degree Celsius (than pre-industrial level) in 2030.

  3. Annual global emissions of the richest 1% cancel the amount of carbon emission saved from about a million of onshore wind turbines.

  4. The level of emission caused by the 1% in 2019 alone is enough to cause 1.3 million deaths due to heat

  5. Heavy tax of 60% on the 1% super earners globally would stop carbon equivalent of more than UK’s total emissions and generate US$6.4 trillion. This amount could have been funded for renewables and make the transition away from fossil fuels faster.

Oxfam’s senior climate justice policy adviser Chiara Liguori said, “The super-rich are plundering and polluting the planet to the point of destruction and it is those who can least afford it who are paying the highest price. The twin crises of climate and inequality were fuelling one another.”

The report also highlights the wealth gap between nations in 2019. The global north (or the high-income countries) accounted for 40% of the global consumption-based carbon dioxide emission, which, on the other hand, was 0.4% by the low-income countries. Africa, homing one out of six of world population, only caused 4% of the emissions. 

The extravagant carbon footprint of 0.1% from superyachts, private jets and the lavish, extravagant doomsday bunkers is 77 times higher than what is needed for global warming reaching 1.5 degree Celsius.

The elites, part of the 1%, have tremendous hobnobbing with the political class. They often grow political power by owning media organisations, social networks, PR agencies and lobbyists, the report says. 

Oxfam argues for a radical increase in equality, a faster and just transition away from fossil fuels and a new economic system.

The current economic system, geared towards amassing ever-greater wealth for the already rich, is driving us over the precipice. It is a racist, sexist economic system, built on exploitation of people and natural resources,” it says.

The focus on economic growth of any kind and endless extraction and overconsumption at any cost must end. People should be put back in charge of their destiny, and democratically elected governments, not corporates, should shape our economy. Our economies should be purposively redesigned and reimagined with a primary focus on the twin goals of human and planetary flourishing,” it adds.

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