World’s richest citizens need to slash carbon emissions

To stay on track for global heating of no more than 1.5C, the carbon footprint of the richest 10% of Europeans must be ten times smaller by 2030, says Oxfam in a new report. By contrast, the footprint of the poorest 50% must be halved.  

The richest 10% of EU citizens were responsible for more than a quarter (27%) of EU emissions between 1990 and 2015 − the same amount as the poorest half of the EU population combined, writes Oxfam in a statement. The 40% of ‘middle income’ Europeans were responsible for 46% of emissions, and the richest 1% for 7% of emissions.

The poorest half of Europeans cut their emissions by almost a quarter (24%) and ‘middle-income’ citizens by 13%. By contrast, the richest 10% of Europeans increased their emissions by 3% and the richest 1% saw an increase of 5%, writes the statement.

Oxfam’s head of climate policy and report co-author, Tim Gore, said: “Carbon inequality could derail Europe’s climate targets unless EU leaders take a joined-up approach to both cut emissions and tackle inequality.”

Air travel and car journeys are responsible for the largest share − around 30-40% − of the carbon footprint of the highest emitting Europeans. Home heating is the biggest contributor to the footprints of lower income groups. Transport emissions have increased significantly in all but two EU Member States since 1990 and are responsible for around a quarter of all EU emissions.

Oxfam is calling for the EU to use the European Green Deal legislative package to fight inequality, cut emissions, and boost the economic recovery from COVID-19.

Photo credit: Tomash Devenishek, flickr/Creative Commons

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