The Future is Equal


Oxfam reacts to NZ Government’s biofuel obligation

The Government’s biofuel obligation risks doing more harm than good for the climate and global hunger, said Nick Henry, Climate Justice Lead at Oxfam Aotearoa: 

“We welcome the decision to rule out the use of palm and soy oil and to limit the use of food and feed to produce biofuel. But this does not go far enough. As our recent briefing paper details, all crop-based biofuels contribute to the increasing levels of hunger across the world. 

“Under a similar system in the EU, Europe is burning 17,000 tonnes of rapeseed and sunflower oil per day – the equivalent of 19 million 1L bottles every day – that could be used for food. What’s more, if the Government move ahead with its mandate, it will contribute to land use changes around the world which are extremely harmful to local communities and to the climate. 

“Minister Woods is clearly committed to managing the impacts of transport on the environment. We acknowledge changes have been made to improve the biofuel obligation, but it is crucial Minister Woods goes further to reduce the serious harm a biofuels obligation can have on people and planet. The Government must rule out using any food crops and have strict standards to not only protect the environment, but also human rights. 

“We look forward to working with the Government to inform and improve its approach to sustainable transport.” 



Oxfam Aotearoa briefing paper on biofuels:  

According to the European Federation for Transport and Environment, 18 percent of the world’s vegetable oil production goes to biodiesel. Nearly all of this is fit for human consumption. In recent years, Europe put 58 percent of all rapeseed and 9 percent of all sunflower oil consumed in the region into its cars and trucks. See: 

COP27: Oxfam reacts to NZ Government’s loss & damage announcement

Oxfam Aotearoa welcomes and congratulates the NZ government’s recognition that loss and damage exists and requires funding, but Jo Spratt, Communications and Advocacy Director says it still isn’t good enough:

“Sadly, this is not new funding. Instead, it is allocated from New Zealand’s existing climate finance, which is for adaptation and mitigation. Financing for loss and damage must be new and additional to adaptation, mitigation and overseas aid funding. There is a severe funding shortfall – countries are suffering irreversible damage in the climate crisis.

“To put it into perspective, last month Oxfam revealed that 55 of the most climate-vulnerable countries have suffered climate-induced economic losses totalling over half a trillion dollars during the first two decades of this century.

“While New Zealand is amongst the leading countries in providing dedicated funding for loss and damage, two further steps are necessary to clearly demonstrate our commitment to the Pacific. First, New Zealand must back-up this announcement by supporting a new loss and damage finance facility to help ensure that finance to address loss and damage is accessible and sustained and is delivered in accordance with the principles of climate justice. Second, New Zealand can pledge this $20 million allocation to the new facility.”


A billionaire emits a million times more greenhouse gases than the average person

Billionaire investments in polluting industries such as fossil fuels and cement double the average for the Standard and Poor group of 500 companies – Oxfam   

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. 

Carbon Billionaires: The investment emissions of World’s richest people, is a report published by Oxfam today based on a detailed analysis of the investments of 125 of the richest billionaires in some of the world’s biggest corporates and the carbon emissions of these investments. These billionaires have a collective US$2.4 trillion stake in 183 companies.  

The report finds that these billionaires’ investments give an annual average of 3m tonnes of CO2e per person, which is a million times higher than 2.76 tonnes of CO2e which is the average for those living in the bottom 90 percent.  

The actual figure is likely to be higher still, as published carbon emissions by corporates have been shown to systematically underestimate the true level of carbon impact, and billionaires and corporates who do not publicly reveal their emissions, so could not be included in the research, are likely to be those with a high climate impact.  

“These few billionaires together have ‘investment emissions’ that equal the carbon footprints of entire countries like France, Egypt or Argentina,” said Nafkote Dabi, Climate Change Lead at Oxfam “The major and growing responsibility of wealthy people for overall emissions is rarely discussed or considered in climate policy making. This has to change. These billionaire investors at the top of the corporate pyramid have huge responsibility for driving climate breakdown. They have escaped accountability for too long,” said Dabi.  

“Emissions from billionaire lifestyles, their private jets and yachts are thousands of times the average person, which is already completely unacceptable. But if we look at emissions from their investments, then their carbon emissions are over a million times higher,” said Dabi.  

Contrary to average people, studies show the world’s wealthiest individuals’ investments account for up to 70 percent of their emissions. Oxfam has used public data to calculate the “investment emissions” of billionaires with over 10 percent stakes in a corporation, by allocating them a share of the reported emissions of the corporates in which they are invested in proportion to their stake.  

The study also found billionaires had an average of 14 percent of their investments in polluting industries such as energy and materials like cement. This is twice the average for investments in the Standard and Poor 500. Only one billionaire in the sample had investments in a renewable energy company.   

“We need COP27 to expose and change the role that big corporates and their rich investors are playing in profiting from the pollution that is driving the global climate crisis,” said Dabi. “They can’t be allowed to hide or greenwash. We need governments to tackle this urgently by publishing emission figures for the richest people, regulating investors and corporates to slash carbon emissions and taxing wealth and polluting investments.” 

The choice of investments billionaires make is shaping the future of our economy, for example, by backing high carbon infrastructure – locking in high emissions for decades to come. The study found that if the billionaires in the sample moved their investments to a fund with stronger environmental and social standards, it could reduce the intensity of their emissions by up to four times. 

“The super-rich need to be taxed and regulated away from polluting investments that are destroying the planet. Governments must put also in place ambitious regulations and policies that compel corporations to be more accountable and transparent in reporting and radically reducing their emissions,” said Dabi. 

Oxfam has estimated that a wealth tax on the world’s super-rich could raise US$1.4 trillion a year, vital resources that could help developing countries – those worst hit by the climate crisis – to adapt, address loss and damage and carry out a just transition to renewable energy. According to the UNEP adaptation costs for developing countries could rise to US$300 billion per year by 2030. Africa alone will require US$600 billion between 2020 to 2030. Oxfam is also calling for steeply higher tax rates for investments in polluting industries to deter such investments.  

The report says that many corporations are off track in setting their climate transition plans, including hiding behind unrealistic and unreliable decarbonisation plans with the promise of attaining net zero targets only by 2050. Fewer than one in three of the 183 corporates reviewed by Oxfam are working with the Science Based Targets Initiative. Only 16 percent have set net zero targets.  

Ahead of the deliberations at COP27, Oxfam is calling for the following actions: 

  • Governments to put in place regulations and policies that compel corporations to track and report on scope 1, scope 2 and scope 3 GHG emissions, set science-based climate targets with a clear road map to reducing emissions, and while at it ensuring a just transition from the extractive, carbon intensive economy by securing the future livelihoods of workers and the affected communities. 
  • Governments should implement a wealth tax on the richest people and an additional steep rate top-up on wealth invested in polluting industries. This will reduce the numbers and power of rich people in our society, drastically reduce their emissions. It will also raise billions that can be used to help countries cope with the brutal impacts of climate breakdown and the loss and damage they incur and fund the global shift to renewable energy. 
  • Corporations must put in place ambitious and time-bound climate change action plans with short-to-medium term targets in line with global climate change objectives in a view to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.  

“To meet the global target of keeping warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, humanity must significantly reduce carbon emissions, which will necessitate radical changes in how investors and corporations conduct business and public policy,” said Dabi. 


Download Oxfam’s report “Carbon Billionaires”. 

Oxfam began with a list of the 220 richest people in the world according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index and worked with data provider Exerica to identify a) the percentage ownership these billionaires held in corporations b) the scope 1&2 emissions of these corporations. To calculate the investment portfolios of individual billionaires, we used the analysis by Bloomberg, who provide detailed breakdowns of the sources of billionaire wealth. Here is the methodology note 

The estimate on the money that could be raise on wealth tax on millionaires, multi-millionaires and billionaires, is through using data from Wealth X and Forbes. 

Recent data from Oxfam’s research with the Stockholm Environment Institute shows that the wealthiest 1 percent of humanity are responsible for twice as many emissions as the poorest 50 percent and that by 2030, their carbon footprints are set to be 30 times greater than the level compatible with the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement. 

The GHS protocol greenhouse accounting standards widely used globally spells out the three categories of gas emissions associated with companies as follows: Scope 1 are direct emissions from the company’s operations. Scope 2 are indirect, where the emissions take place elsewhere. Scope 3 are all other indirect emissions, this includes everything from emissions in the company’s supply chains to employee commuting, to the use of the products they sell by consumers.  

Little for developing countries to cheer about in climate finance report

In response to the US$100bn climate finance progress report, by Canada and Germany on behalf of the donor countries published today, Nafkote Dabi, Oxfam International Climate Policy Lead said:

“While this report provides helpful information on various actions to advance the climate finance agenda, it fails to boost confidence that developed countries will make significant and swift progress on meeting their commitment to provide US$100 billion annually, over 2020-2025 to assist poor countries. The report would have been an ideal moment for developed countries to spell out how they will compensate for missing the US$100 billion mark earlier through additional climate finance in subsequent years. Also, it lacks a robust roadmap as to how they’re going to double adaptation finance by 2025, something they agreed to at COP 26.”

“Poor countries who are worst affected by this climate crisis will find little here to cheer. Countries in Asia, East and West Africa are experiencing more frequent and more severe impacts of climate change, and they have done little to cause it, and they are least prepared to cope with it. That’s why these financial pledges to them are so important.  Their citizens are struggling now to cope with catastrophic climate-induced disasters such as droughts, floods, and unpredictable rainfall, which have reduced food production, resulted in water shortages, destroyed livelihoods, and displaced millions.”

“To make matters worse, rich contributors gave more than 70 percent of their climate finance in the form of loans in 2020. This means that poor countries are being loaded up with more debt to pay for climate damage. And even though rich countries claim to have mobilised around US$83 billion in climate finance in 2020, of which US$68 billion they claim was provided as public climate finance, recent Oxfam analysis shows that the actual support provided was just a third of what the reported figures for public finance suggest.”

“At the upcoming COP27 in Egypt, developed countries must address this glaring gap by committing to significantly increase grant-based finance, something that developing countries have long been calling for.”

Rich countries fail to submit ambitious plans to cut emissions

In response to the UNFCCC’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) Synthesis Report published today, Chelsea Hodgkins, Oxfam’s Climate Change Policy Lead, said: 

“This report shows world leaders are still failing to address the climate crisis —our planet is currently on track for a catastrophic global temperature rise of 2.5°C. Scientists are clear: it’s now or never to limit global warming to 1.5°C. Climate change is causing suffering across the world, and it will continue to do so. People are already being pushed from their homes, and are facing hunger and drought, floods, and other climate-induced disasters.”

“The climate crisis does not affect everyone equally —it has a disproportionate impact on people in poorer countries as well as women, Indigenous peoples and other marginalised groups. This is why governments must develop and implement NDCs with equity at the forefront. So far, progress on the inclusion and protection of women and Indigenous peoples’ rights, namely land rights, has been abysmal.” 

Oxfam supports calls from allies, including the Business and Human Rights Resource Center and Indigenous Peoples’ Rights International, for NDCs to include specific plans for ensuring equal access to clean, reliable and affordable energy and clear protections for land rights. NDCs should also guarantee the rights of environmental defenders and Indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior and informed consent. 

“Countries must work toward putting our world on a safer path by collectively reducing emissions by at least 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030. Today’s report shows that the combined climate plans submitted will increase global emissions by over 10 percent by 2030. This is alarming.”

“Rich countries have yet again failed to prioritise our planet. They have shown a lack of interest and commitment to addressing climate change that they are largely responsible for. Every fraction of warming is a death sentence, especially for poor communities that are most affected yet least prepared. We call on countries that have not yet submitted their revised climate plans to do so with urgency. They must do so based on their fair share to limit warming to 1.5°C and with specific protections for women, Indigenous peoples, environmental defenders, and marginalised communities.”

189 million people per year affected by extreme weather in developing countries as rich countries stall on paying climate impact costs

Lower-income countries paying the highest price as emissions and fossil fuel profits rocket

An average of 189 million people per year have been affected by extreme weather-related events in developing countries since 1991 – the year that a mechanism was first proposed to address the costs of climate impacts on low-income countries – according to a new report published today.

The report, The Cost of Delay, by the Loss and Damage Collaboration – a group of more than 100 researchers, activists, and policymakers from around the globe – highlights how rich countries have repeatedly stalled efforts to provide dedicated finance to developing countries bearing the costs of a climate crisis they did little to cause.

Analysis shows that in the first half of 2022 six fossil fuel companies combined made enough money to cover the cost of major extreme weather and climate-related events in developing countries and still have nearly US$70 billion profit remaining.

The report reveals that 55 of the most climate-vulnerable countries have suffered climate-induced economic losses totalling over half a trillion dollars during the first two decades of this century as fossil fuel profits rocket leaving people in some of the poorest places on earth to foot the bill.

The report also reveals that the fossil fuel industry made enough super-profit between 2000 and 2019 to cover the costs of climate-induced economic losses in 55 of the most climate-vulnerable countries almost sixty times over.

Finance to address ‘loss and damage’ – the term used to refer to the destructive impacts of climate change that aren’t avoided by mitigation or adaptation – is set to be the defining issue of COP27, the UN climate talks taking place in Sharm El-Sheikh in November, as developing countries call for action after decades of delay.

The report estimates that since 1991, developing countries experienced 79 per cent of recorded deaths and 97 per cent of the total recorded number of people affected by the impacts of weather extremes. Analysis also shows that the number of extreme weather and climate-related events that developing countries experience has more than doubled over that period with over 676,000 people killed.

The entire continent of Africa produces less than four per cent of global emissions and the African Development Bank reported recently the continent was losing between five and 15 per cent of its GDP per capita growth because of climate change.

Lyndsay Walsh, Oxfam’s climate policy adviser and co-author of the report said: “It is an injustice that polluters who are disproportionately responsible for the escalating greenhouse gas emissions continue to reap these enormous profits while climate-vulnerable countries are left to foot the bill for the climate impacts destroying people’s lives, homes and jobs.

“This is not a future reality, it is happening now, as we are seeing with the devastating floods in Pakistan and unprecedented drought in East Africa.

“But it is not too late. COP27 starts in just two weeks and finance to address loss and damage must be agreed. News that the issue will be on the agenda for COP27 is welcome and an ambitious outcome is critical not only for those dealing with climate impacts in developing countries, but also for maintaining trust and credibility.

“We must end this delay. The best time to start was 31 years ago, the next best time is now.”

At COP26 last year, developing countries were united in calling for the establishment of a Loss and Damage Finance Facility, to ensure a comprehensive approach to climate impacts, but this was shot down by developed countries in favour of a three-year dialogue – the Glasgow Dialogue – with no mandated outcomes.

Professor Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh, said: “As one of the few people who has attended every single COP over the last three decades, I have personally witnessed the resistance from the developed countries to every attempt by the vulnerable developing countries to discuss loss and damage from human-induced climate change. If it doesn’t get on the agenda from COP27 onwards the UNFCCC will have failed in its responsibilities.”

The catastrophic flooding in Pakistan this year, directly affected at least 33 million people and costs were estimated at over US$30 billion. Yet the UN humanitarian appeal for the floods is set at only US$472.3 million (just over one per cent of what is needed), and only 19 per cent funded. The flood response is not considered to be anywhere near enough to help the millions of people who have lost their livelihoods and homes and face hunger, disease and psychological impacts.

Pakistan will have to take out another IMF loan to help recover from the floods, in contrast, funds from a loss and damage finance facility would be new and additional and come in the form of grants, to ensure the country was not burdened by debt in the aftermath of a climate-induced disaster.

Every fraction of a degree of further warming means more climate impacts with losses from climate change in developing countries estimated to be between US$290 billion and US$580 billion by 2030. These estimates do not include non-economic losses and damages, such as psychological impacts and biodiversity loss, which are profound but cannot be translated fully into monetary terms, meaning the true cost is far higher than what is accounted for.

With current global policies projected to result in about 2.7°C warming above pre-industrial levels, and huge gaps between the amount of finance required by developing countries to adapt and what is being provided, the urgent need for finance to address loss and damage is clear.


Notes to editors:

  • The full report ‘The cost of delay: why finance to address Loss and Damage must be agreed at COP27’ is available here. (link will go live on 24 October – pdf available on request)