The richest percent of the world’s population is responsible for more than twice as much CO₂ emissions than the poorer half of humanity put together. So the rich damage the climate much more than the poor. This emerges from a report that the development organization Oxfam published before the general debate of the 75th UN General Assembly that began on Tuesday. As a consequence of the report, Oxfam is calling for the wealthy to reduce their CO₂ consumption, to invest more in public infrastructure and to reorganize the economy in a way that is climate-friendly.
The report focuses on the years 1990 to 2015. During this time, CO₂ emissions have doubled worldwide. The richest ten percent of the world’s population were responsible for more than half of the CO₂ emissions during this time. The richest percent alone was responsible for 15 percent of global CO₂ emissions. The poorer half of the population was only responsible for seven percent of global CO₂ emissions.
In Germany, the richest ten percent of the population were responsible for 26 percent of German CO₂ emissions in the period examined. The poorer half of the German population is five times as large as the richest ten percent, but with 29 percent of the German CO₂ emissions it only emitted slightly more CO₂ into the air.
The catastrophic consequences of the climate crisis are felt in many places. “This is due to a policy that focuses on consumption incentives, promises constant growth and economically divides the world into winners and losers,” said Ellen Ehmke, an expert on social inequality at Oxfam Germany. “The poorest pay the price for the consumption frenzy of a rich minority.”
One lever in the fight against climate change is traffic, especially air traffic. Oxfam is also particularly critical of SUVs, which were the second largest drivers of emissions between 2010 and 2018. “We have to solve the climate and inequality crises together,” said Ehmke. The excessive CO₂ consumption of the richest is at the expense of everyone and must be restricted. “Taxes on climate-damaging SUVs and frequent flying would be a first step.”