Extreme carbon inequality uncovered

2nd October 2020

Web p04 05 istock 610768920

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Renewable ,
  • Pollution & Waste Management


Abigail Harrison-Strong

The carbon emissions of the richest 1% are more than double those of the three billion people in the poorest half of the world's population, Oxfam research has uncovered.

Fuelled by luxury lifestyles and overindulgence, the findings show that the wealthiest 1% account for 15% of global consumption emissions, while the poorest half of the population generate just 7%. Moreover, the increase in emissions over 25 years from the richest 1% has been three times more than the rise from the poorest 50%, who suffer most from climate-induced floods, famines and cyclones.

Former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said that the findings provide further evidence that economic models have not only driven dangerous climate change, but have also been an enabler of “catastrophic inequality“. “The COVID-19 pandemic provides an incontestable imperative to rebuild better and place the global economy on a more sustainable, resilient and fairer footing,“ he said. “Addressing the disproportionate carbon emissions from the wealthiest in society must be a key priority.“

Oxfam's research involved assessing the consumption emissions of different income groups between 1990 and 2015, during which time the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere doubled.

The findings also show that the world's richest 10% – approximately 630 million people – accounted for 52% of emissions, and one-third of the emissions that scientists believe will trigger catastrophic and irreversible climate change. The poorest half of humanity emitted just 4%.

Oxfam said that governments can tackle both extreme inequality and the climate crisis if they target the excessive emissions of the richest and invest in poor and vulnerable communities. The charity called for an increase in wealth taxes and new carbon levies on luxury items such as private jets and super-yachts, as well as SUVs and frequent flights.

It said that the revenue generated should be invested in low-carbon jobs, such as in the social care sector and in green public transport, and used to help poor communities around the world adapt to the changing climate.

“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,“ said Oxfam GB's chief executive Danny Sriskandarajah.

“As leaders make decisions about what a post-COVID recovery looks like, they should seize this opportunity to reshape our economy, encourage low-carbon living and create a better future for all.“

Image credit: iStock


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

Hosting the energy transition

Sarah Spencer on the clear case for stronger partnerships between farmers and renewable energy developers

6th June 2024

Read more

A system-level review is needed to deliver a large-scale programme of retrofit for existing buildings. Failure to do so will risk missing net-zero targets, argues Amanda Williams

31st May 2024

Read more

Chris Seekings reports from a webinar helping sustainability professionals to use standards effectively

31st May 2024

Read more

Although many organisations focus on scope 1 and 2 emissions, it is vital to factor in scope 3 emissions and use their footprint to drive business change

31st May 2024

Read more

Joe Nisbet explores the challenges and opportunities of delivering marine net gain through offshore renewables

31st May 2024

Read more

IEMA submits response to the Future Homes Standard consultation

31st May 2024

Read more

Hello and welcome to the June/July of Transform.

31st May 2024

Read more

There is strong support for renewable energy as a source of economic growth among UK voters, particularly among those intending to switch their support for a political party.

16th May 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close