The Future is Equal

Archives for November 20, 2023

Richest 1% emit as much planet-heating pollution as two-thirds of humanity

The richest 1% of New Zealanders cause double the consumption emissions of all 2 million people who live in Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Kiribati, combined.

The richest 1 percent of the world’s population produced as much carbon pollution in 2019 as the five billion people who made up the poorest two-thirds of humanity, reveals a new Oxfam report today. This report comes ahead of the UN climate summit in Dubai, amid growing fears that the 1.5°C target for curtailing rising temperatures appears increasingly unachievable.

“This report confirms the shocking truth, it is the super rich who are harming the climate with their extravagant lifestyles and irresponsible investments in dirty industries, not the low-income communities in Aotearoa and the Pacific who are facing the worst of the climate crisis.” said Oxfam Aotearoa Climate Justice Lead Nick Henry.

Data from Oxfam’s global research shows that for Aotearoa New Zealand:

• The richest 1% of New Zealanders, 48,000 people, cause double the consumption emissions of all 2 million people who live in Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Kiribati, combined.

• A single New Zealander in the richest 1% causes as much climate damage as 149 people from Kiribati.

• The richest 1% of New Zealanders cause more consumption emissions than 30% of the population with the lowest incomes, combined. This 30% are already consuming less than the global limit to keep global heating below 1.5 degrees.

“The injustice of the climate crisis is driven by economic injustice and inequality, where the rich take far more than their fair share of the world’s resources. We know that New Zealand is consuming too much fossil fuel and other resources compared to our neighbours in the Pacific, but this report shows it’s the richest New Zealanders who are causing the problem, not low-income communities in Aotearoa,” said Henry.

“The rich need to reduce their impact. The rest of us need collective solutions that improve our lives while reducing our emissions. Taxing the rich can help with both.”

Climate Equality: A Planet for the 99%” is based on research with the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and assesses the consumption emissions of different income groups in 2019, the most recent year for which data are available. The report shows the stark gap between the carbon footprints of the super-rich —whose carbon-hungry lifestyles and investments in polluting industries like fossil fuels are driving global warming— and the bulk of people across the world.

• 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 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.

Climate breakdown and inequality are locked in a vicious cycle —Oxfam has seen first-hand how people living in poverty, women and girls, Indigenous communities and Global South countries are feeling the unequal brunt of climate impacts, which in turn increase the divide. The report finds that seven times more people die from floods in more unequal countries. Climate change is already worsening inequality both between and within countries.

Governments can tackle the twin crises of inequality and climate change by targeting the excessive emissions of the super-rich, and investing in public services and meeting climate goals. Oxfam calculates that a 60 percent tax on the incomes of the richest 1 percent would cut emissions by more than the total emissions of the UK and raise $6.4 trillion a year to pay for the transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

Oxfam is calling on governments to:

• Dramatically reduce inequality. Oxfam calculates that it would be possible, through a global redistribution of incomes, to provide everyone living in poverty with a minimum daily income of $25 while still reducing global emissions by 10 percent (roughly the equivalent of the total emissions of the European Union).

• Get off fossil fuels quickly and fairly. Rich countries are disproportionately responsible for global warming and must end oil and gas production correspondingly faster. New taxes on corporations and billionaires could help pay for the transition to renewable energy.

• Prioritize human and planetary well-being over endless profit, extraction and consumption. Stop using GDP growth as the measure of human progress.

Notes to editors:

Download “Climate Equality: A Planet for the 99%”, the Oceania regional briefing, and the methodology note. The Stockholm Environment Institute’s Emissions Inequality Dashboard is also available for consultation.

Oxfam has launched a global petition to Make Rich Polluters Pay.

According to Our World in Data, road transport accounts for 15 percent of total CO2 emissions.

According to SEI’s research, a person in the bottom 99 percent emits on average 4.1 tons of carbon a year. Richard Wilk and Beatriz Barros’ study of 20 of the world’s billionaires found that they emitted on average 8,194 tons CO2 equivalent per year. This includes all greenhouse gases, so when converted to CO2, this is approximately 5,959 tons CO2. 5,959 divided by 4.1 is 1,453.

Oxfam’s research has shown that the investments of just 125 billionaires emit 393 million tonnes of CO2e each year —the equivalent of France— at an individual annual average that is a million times higher than someone in the bottom 90 percent of humanity.

Oxfam water engineers are having to drill deeper, more expensive and harder-to-maintain water boreholes used by some of the poorest communities around the world, more often now only to find dry, depleted or polluted reservoirs. One in five water boreholes Oxfam digs now is dry or unfit for humans to drink.

According to the UN, more than 91 percent of deaths caused by climate- and weather-related disasters over the past 50 years occurred in the Global South. Evidence shows that inequalities between rich and Global South countries are already 25 percent larger than they would be in a world without global warming.

Contact information:

Ben Ryder, Media and Communications Coordinator 022 310 2765 /