Oxfam reports richest 1 percent responsible for more carbon emissions than poorest 66 percent

The report titled, “Climate Equality: A Planet for the 99%,” shows the large gap between the carbon footprint of the richest 1 percent and the rest of the people across the world.

Image Credit: Dave Whamond

A new Oxfam report reveals that the wealthiest 1 percent of the world’s population emitted as much carbon pollution in 2019 as the poorest two-thirds of humanity. The report titled, “Climate Equality: A Planet for the 99%,” shows the large gap between the carbon footprint of the richest 1 percent (77 million people) and the rest of the world’s population (five billion people).

The report found that the carbon footprint of the 1 percent was 77 times higher than the highest level needed to keep global warming from exceeding 1.5 degrees C.

“The super-rich are plundering and polluting the planet to the point of destruction, leaving humanity choking on extreme heat, floods and drought,” Amitabh Behar, Oxfam International interim executive director, said. “For years we’ve fought to end the era of fossil fuels to save millions of lives and our planet. It’s clearer than ever this will be impossible until we, too, end the era of extreme wealth.”

The report factored research from the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and assessed “the consumption emissions of different income groups in 2019, the most recent year for which data are available.” according to a press release from Oxfam.

“Not taxing wealth allows the richest to rob from us, ruin our planet and renege on democracy,” Behar said. “Taxing extreme wealth transforms our chances to tackle both inequality and the climate crisis.”

The “carbon-hungry lifestyles” of the richest 1 percent and their investments in the fossil fuel industry are driving factors of climate change, according to Oxfam, making the elites responsible for 16 percent of global consumption emissions in 2019.

Oxfam said governments need to target excessive emissions of the super-rich by investing in public services and meeting climate goals. Oxfam calls on governments to propose a 60 percent tax on the richest 1 percent to help cut emissions by more than the total emissions of the UK and the tax will raise $6.4 trillion a year to pay for countries to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, according to a press release.

“These are trillions of dollars at stake to invest in dynamic 21st century green governments, but also to re-inject into our democracies,” Behar said.

A few takeaways from the report include:

  • The richest 1 percent (77 million people) were responsible for 16 percent of global consumption emissions in 2019 —more than all car and road transport emissions. The richest 10 percent accounted for half (50 percent) of emissions. 
  • It would take about 1,500 years for someone in the bottom 99 percent to produce as much carbon as the richest billionaires do in a year.  
  • Every year, the emissions of the richest 1 percent cancel out the carbon savings coming from nearly one million wind turbines.
  • Since the 1990s, the richest 1 percent have used up twice as much of the carbon we have left to burn without increasing global temperatures above the safe limit of 1.5°C than the poorest half of humanity. 
  • The carbon emissions of richest 1 percent are set to be 22 times greater than the level compatible with the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement in 2030.

“The fossil fuel industry is feasting on hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies and windfall profits while household budgets shrink and our planet burns,” Antonio Guterres, UN chief, said. “Pollutes must pay.”


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