The richest 1% of the planet’s population releases more CO2 than the poorest 50%. This information can be extracted from the new study published by Oxfam Intermón, in which it denounces the differences in CO2 emissions among the population, according to their income. If this situation continues, by 2030 it will be 30 times higher than that needed to meet the Paris Agreement target limiting global warming to 1.5°C in nine years.
This situation is not something that affects only today. In 2015, the figures already foretold the existence of such unconscionable inequality that has kept the debate alive until the recent COP26: the richest 1% of citizens were responsible for 15% of total C02 emissions. In contrast, in the same year, the poorest 50% of the world’s population accounted for 7% of emissions.
The study was based on research by the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) and the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI). It is based on a comprehensive analysis of the emissions of the global population and different income groups. It concludes by highlighting the difference between the large carbon footprint produced by a global minority, compared to the other part of society, which is a large majority. The emissions levels of the richest population are the ones that today imply such drastic cuts in CO2 emissions for the rest of the population.
C02 emissions should be reduced drastically
The report shows several graphs that represent the information from the study. In one of them we can see the consumption of tons of CO2 per capita in 1990, 2015 and 2030, compared to the agreed agreement of 2.3 tons per capita. The conclusions we draw from this representation is that, based on income, the only group of the population that complies with the covenant is the poorest half of the population, as their emissions are well below the levels required to not exceed the 1.5ºC of the Paris Agreement.
In fact, if this poorest segment of the world’s population were to increase its emissions by 200%, it would still never reach the 2.3 tons that a 1.5-degree rise would imply. On the other hand, with the current rate of consumption of the more affluent inhabitants, it is predicted that they will reach it. It may even be exceeded.
To be within the agreed CO2 emissions limit, the richest 1% of the population would have to reduce their emissions by 90%, but according to calculations, they only plan to do so by 11%, which is therefore insufficient. A single person in the top 1% would have to reduce their current emissions by around 97% to achieve the required level.
The 1% of the population is responsible for the forceful change
Although the data are alarming, not all the information is discouraging. The 2015 Paris Agreement, yes it is having some impact and by 2030 the remaining 40% of the population is projected to reduce emissions by 9% compared to 2015. This is an important change for this group, which is mainly made up of middle-income countries such as China and South Africa. Between 1990 and 2015, a rapid rise in emissions was recorded at these locations.
But if you really want to make a noticeable change, you have to focus on that 1% of the population. It is a small global elite that generates large amounts of CO2, which is the cause of extreme weather events that are occurring around the world and that endanger the health of the planet and, consequently, the health of each and every living being on Earth.
In the words of Jacobo Ocharán, head of Oxfam Intermón’s Climate Initiative: “The emissions produced by a billionaire’s flight into space exceed those that can be generated by one of the poorest billion people on the planet in a lifetime […] Emissions from the richest 10% alone could push us over the limit in the next nine years. This would have catastrophic consequences for some of the Earth’s most vulnerable inhabitants, who suffer from life-threatening storms, hunger and poverty”.