6th Dec 2023

Richest 10 percent in EU emit as much CO2 as poorest half

  • 'With the policies we currently have in place, we are heading for 3.2 degrees of global warming by the end of the century. This will result in disaster', climate activist Greta Thunberg commented on the report (Photo: Unsplash)
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The richest 10 percent of European citizens were responsible for the same carbon pollution as half of Europe's poorest people in 2019, according to a new Oxfam report published on Monday (20 November).

For the EU's top one percent, their emissions are even more worrying.

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  • 'Europe's wealthiest are also Europe's biggest polluters. Their increasingly luxurious lifestyles and escalating opulence are wreaking havoc on our planet,' Oxfam's tax expert Chiara Putaturo said (Photo: Unsplash)

Oxfam's new report, Climate Equality: A Planet for the 99 Percent, shows that a person in the richest one percent produces on average 14 times more emissions than the bottom 50 percent of Europeans.

What's more, their carbon emissions in 2019 are enough to cause 1.3 million heat-related deaths, and are set to be 22 times higher than the level compatible with the Paris Agreement's 1.5 °C target in 2030.

In comparison, it is estimated that the emissions of the poorest half of the world's population will remain at a fifth of the level compatible with 1.5 °C.

These figures come just ahead of the UN climate summit in Dubai (30 November-12 December), where world leaders will fly in to discuss how to limit and prepare for future climate change.

"Europe's wealthiest are also Europe's biggest polluters. Their increasingly luxurious lifestyles and escalating opulence are wreaking havoc on our planet," Oxfam's tax expert Chiara Putaturo said.

Meanwhile, the poorest are suffering the most. More than nine-out-of-ten of the deaths caused by climate and weather-related disasters over the past 50 years have occurred in low-income countries, the UN points out.

"With the policies we currently have in place, we are heading for 3.2 degrees of global warming by the end of the century. This will result in disaster," climate activist Greta Thunberg commented on the report.

Another study calculated that the death toll from floods is seven times higher in the most unequal countries than in the more equal ones.

Inequality and climate change are not two separate crises, the Oxfam report stresses.

There's already evidence that economic inequality between countries is 25 percent higher than it would be in a world free of global warming.

Moreover, fossil fuel companies continue to be at the heart of the climate crisis, with research showing that 70 per cent of industrial carbon emissions since 1998 have come from just 100 oil, coal and gas companies.

In the current context, saving the planet will not happen without a huge shift towards a greener economy — and a huge amount of investment, both inside and outside the EU.

"We need a European wealth tax. There are billions of euros at stake to invest in fighting poverty, inequality, and the climate crisis," said Putaturo.

Oxfam has calculated that an annual wealth tax of up to five percent on Europe's billionaires could raise nearly €250bn a year.

A European citizens' initiative is currently gathering one million signatures to call on the EU to introduce a wealth tax on the very rich to fund a green and social transition.

But even if they get this support, there is no guarantee that the EU Commission will respond with a legislative proposal.


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