According to new data released today, the carbon footprints of the world’s richest 1% will be 30 times bigger than the level consistent with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C objective in 2030. It comes as participants at the COP26 gathering in Glasgow debate how to keep this aim alive.
Governments agreed in 2015 to limit global warming to 1.5°C over pre-industrial levels, but existing commitments to cut emissions fall well short of what is required. To stay inside this boundary, every person on Earth would need to produce only 2.3 tonnes of CO2 per year by 2030 – approximately half the average footprint of every person on Earth today.
Oxfam commissioned today’s report, which is based on research conducted by the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) and the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), to predict how countries’ promises will influence the carbon footprints of richer and poorer people throughout the world. It treats the entire world’s population and economic levels as if they were a single country. It concludes that by 2030:
Even in 2030, the poorest half of the world’s population will emit much below the 1.5°C-aligned limit.
The richest 1% and 10% of persons are expected to outperform this level by 30 and 9 times, respectively. To achieve this level, someone in the top 1% would need to cut their emissions by roughly 97 percent compared to today.
However, in a hint that the 2015 Paris Agreement is having an effect, the middle 40% are on track to lower per capita emissions by 9% from 2015 to 2030. This is a significant improvement for a group mostly composed of residents from middle-income countries such as China and South Africa, which saw the largest per capita emissions growth rates between 1990 and 2015.
When total worldwide emissions are considered rather than per capita emissions, the richest 1% — fewer people than the population of Germany – are anticipated to contribute for 16% of total global emissions by 2030, up from 13% in 1990 and 15% in 2015. Regardless of what the other 90% does, the richest 10%’s total emissions are expected to reach the 1.5°C-aligned threshold in 2030.
“The emissions from a single billionaire space journey would outweigh the lifetime emissions of someone among the poorest billion people on Earth,” stated Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Lyn Morgain. A small group of people appear to have a free licence to harm the environment. Their excessive emissions are fueling severe weather all across the world, putting the worldwide objective of reducing global warming in jeopardy.
“The emissions of the richest 10% alone might push us above the agreed-upon limit in the next nine years.” This would have disastrous consequences for some of the world’s most vulnerable populations, who are already confronting devastating storms, starvation, and destitution.”
The location of global carbon inequality is also changing, with a bigger percentage of the world’s richest 1% and 10% related to people in middle-income nations. By 2030, Chinese citizens will be responsible for nearly a quarter (23%) of the richest 1%’s emissions, US citizens for a fifth (19%), and Indian citizens for a tenth (11 percent).
“The global emissions gap to keep the 1.5°C Paris objective alive is not the product of majority of the world’s consumption: it instead represents the excessive emissions of the planet’s richest residents,” stated Tim Gore, author of this briefing and Head of the Low Carbon and Circular Economy project at IEEP. To bridge the carbon gap by 2030, countries must focus policies at their wealthiest, biggest polluters — the climate and inequality issues must be addressed concurrently. This encompasses both efforts to limit luxury carbon consumption, such as mega yachts, private aircraft, and space travel, as well as measures to limit climate-intensive investments, such as stock ownership in fossil fuel companies.
“Our research underscores the difficulty of ensuring a more equal allocation of the remaining and quickly dwindling global carbon budget,” says Emily Ghosh, Scientist at Stockholm Environment Institute. If we continue on our current path, the enormous inequities in wealth and emissions throughout the global population will persist, calling into question the fairness concept at the heart of the Paris Agreement. Carbon inequality analysis must be prioritised in government attempts to cut emissions.”
According to Oxfam, international leaders should focus on achieving greater carbon reduction by 2030, in accordance with their fair share, and ensuring that the wealthiest individuals throughout the globe and within nations make the most drastic cutbacks. The wealthiest citizens have the power to significantly accelerate this process, not just by embracing greener lives, but also by focusing their political influence and investments toward a low-carbon economy.
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