Media Releases

Richest 1% emit as much planet-heating pollution as two-thirds of humanity

  1. Carbon emissions of the richest 1 percent surged to 16 percent of the world’s total CO2 emissions in 2019.
  2. Their carbon emissions are enough to cause 1.3 million excess deaths due to heat.
  3. In the Philippines, the carbon emissions of the richest one percent equate to the total carbon emissions of the bottom 50 percent of Filipinos.
  4. Unequal countries suffer seven times more flood fatalities than more equal countries.
  5. Fairly taxing the super-rich would help curb both climate change and inequality.

The richest 1 percent of the world’s population produced as much carbon pollution in 2019 than the five billion people who made up the poorest two-thirds of humanity, reveals a new Oxfam report today. It comes ahead of the UN climate summit in Dubai amid growing fears that the 1.5°C target for curtailing rising temperatures appears increasingly unachievable.

“The super-rich are plundering and polluting the planet to the point of destruction, leaving humanity choking on extreme heat, floods, and drought,” said Oxfam International interim Executive Director Amitabh Behar.

“For years, we’ve fought to end the era of fossil fuels to save millions of lives and our planet. It’s clearer than ever this will be impossible until we, too, end the era of extreme wealth,” said Behar.

Climate Equality: A Planet for the 99%” is based on research with the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and assesses the consumption emissions of different income groups in 2019, the most recent year for which data are available. The report shows the stark gap between the carbon footprints of the super-rich —whose carbon-hungry lifestyles and investments in polluting industries like fossil fuels are driving global warming— and the bulk of people across the world.

  • The richest 1 percent (77 million people) were responsible for 16 percent of global consumption emissions in 2019 —more than all car and road transport emissions. The richest 10 percent accounted for half (50 percent) of emissions.
  • It would take about 1,500 years for someone in the bottom 99 percent to produce as much carbon as the richest billionaires do in a year. 
  • Every year, the emissions of the richest 1 percent cancel out the carbon savings coming from nearly one million wind turbines.
  • Since the 1990s, the richest 1 percent have used up twice as much of the carbon we have left to burn without increasing global temperatures above the limit of 1.5°C than the poorest half of humanity.
  • The carbon emissions of richest 1 percent are set to be 22 times greater than the level compatible with the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement in 2030.

Climate breakdown and inequality are locked in a vicious cycle —Oxfam has seen first-hand how people living in poverty, women and girls, Indigenous communities, and Global South countries are feeling the unequal brunt of climate impacts, which in turn increase the divide. The report finds that seven times more people die from floods in more unequal countries. Climate change is already worsening inequality both between and within countries.

“The inequality of the climate crisis is more obvious when poorer communities in the Philippines are being made to bear the harshest burden of more severe and frequent disasters due to the climate crisis despite having minute carbon emissions compared to the 1% richest.  And even with the best intentions to prepare for disasters, we are constantly dealing with further damage and loss. We may not be able to keep up if we are not more committed and ambitious with our climate actions.,” Oxfam Pilipinas Executive Director Erika Geronimo said.

In the Philippines, the carbon emissions of the richest one percent equate to the total carbon emissions of the bottom 50 percent of Filipinos.

The report also highlighted how the excessive carbon emissions of the richest 10 percent in the country account for the 18,584 deaths due to heat in 2019. In April this year, PAGASA raised El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Alert, a weather phenomenon associated with decreased rainfall and increased drier and hotter conditions. Several “danger” heat index have been reported since the ENSO alert, ranging from 42-47 degrees Celsius.

Notes to editors

Download “Climate Equality: A Planet for the 99%and the methodology note. The Stockholm Environment Institute’s Emissions Inequality Dashboard is also available for consultation.

Oxfam has launched a global petition to Make Rich Polluters Pay.

According to Our World in Data, road transport accounts for 15 percent of total CO2 emissions.

According to SEI’s research, a person in the bottom 99 percent emits on average 4.1 tons of carbon a year. Richard Wilk and Beatriz Barros’ study of 20 of the world’s billionaires found that they emitted on average 8,194 tons CO2 equivalent per year. This includes all greenhouse gases, so when converted to CO2, this is approximately 5,959 tons CO2. 5,959 divided by 4.1 is 1,453.

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