World's Richest 1% Accounts for Twice Carbon Emissions of Poorest 50%

The report warns that the world should take action "now."
Deniz Yildiran

As the world has been dealing with COVID-19 for almost half a year now, we almost forgot about the never-ending, not even slowing-down climate change. Putting our health first, we've neglected the raging truth threatening our lives lately. This is not the case for responsive organizations though. Oxfam and the Stockholm Environment Institute are two of those.

Two organizations worked on and published a report with unsettling results. According to the recent report, %1 of the world's richest population was responsible for cumulative carbon emissions more than twice the poorest 50% (3.1 billion people) between 1990 and 2015. And that percentage of the richest is in fact equivalent to 63 million people. 


In general, annual emissions had increased by 60% between the aforementioned period. And it seems that the poorest had a drastically little impact, compared to the richest. 

The poorest 50% were also responsible for just 7% of cumulative emissions, and only took 4% of the carbon budget.

"A failure to confront extreme carbon inequality at this historic juncture – prioritizing yet more grossly unequal, carbon-intensive economic growth to the benefit of the rich minority – will mean jumping from the frying pan of the current pandemic to the fire of an uncontrolled and irreversible climate crisis," it was stated in the report.

World's Richest 1% Accounts for Twice Carbon Emissions of Poorest 50%

Share of cumulative emissions from 1990 to 2015 and use of the global carbon budget for 1.5C linked to consumption by different global income groups, Source: Confronting Carbon Inequality

The organizations brought an already foreseeable fact to light again. The experience we all had through the pandemic showed that it was possible for the rich to give up on their luxury priorities and the only thing that'd matter was basic needs. Hence, taxing luxury carbon emissions and promoting public transportation infrastructure can help the world reduce emissions, says the report. However, it highlights the action time as "now." Otherwise, it would be too late. 

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The report implies that we are "standing perilously close" to exceed the 1.5C goal of the Paris Agreement due to current findings. 

"Restrictions related to the pandemic saw global emissions fall this year. But unless emissions continue to decline rapidly, the 1.5C global carbon budget will be fully depleted by 2030," it was stated. "The inequality is such that the richest 10% alone would fully deplete it by just a few years later, even if everyone else's emissions dropped to zero tomorrow." 

World's Richest 1% Accounts for Twice Carbon Emissions of Poorest 50%

Total and per capita consumption emissions of individuals in different global income groups in 2015, Source: Confronting Carbon Inequality

The report mainly focuses on the current economic model all around the world, and defends that this fact leads to climate change and is "equally catastrophic inequality." It appears even more important now to create a more sustainable, resilient and fairer economy model in the times of pandemic, the report explains. 

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