The richest 1% of the world’s population produced as much carbon pollution in 2019 as the 5 billion people who made up the poorest two-thirds of humanity, reveals a new report by global charitable organisation Oxfam. 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 report flags that outsised emissions of the richest 1% will cause 1.3 million “heat-related excess deaths”, which is roughly equivalent to the population of Dublin, Ireland. Startingly, most of these deaths will occur between 2020 and 2030.

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

The Oxfam report titled “Climate Equality: A Planet for the 99%” draws on research by 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 findings show the richest 1% which translates to around 77 million people were responsible for 16% of global consumption emissions in 2019 — more than all car and road transport emissions. The richest 10% accounted for half (50%) of emissions. 

“It would take about 1,500 years for someone in the bottom 99% to produce as much carbon as the richest billionaires do in a year.” The report claims that data shows that every year, the emissions of the richest 1% cancel out the carbon savings coming from nearly 1 million wind turbines.

Overall since the 1990s, the richest 1% have used up twice as much of the carbon that has been left to burn without increasing global temperatures above the safe 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.”

To address the issue, the researchers call for tackling the “twin crises of inequality and climate change” by targeting the excessive emissions of the super-rich, investing in public services and meeting climate goals. “A 60 percent tax on the incomes of the richest 1 percent would cut emissions by more than the total emissions of the UK and raise $6.4 trillion a year to pay for the transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy,” the report says.

The governments must “dramatically reduce inequality”, it says, adding that it’s possible through a global redistribution of incomes, to provide everyone living in poverty with a minimum daily income of $25 while still reducing global emissions by 10%, which is roughly the equivalent of the total emissions of the European Union.

Notably, India has the goal of net zero by 2070, under which it aims to increase non-fossil electricity generation capacity to 500 GW by 2030. Also, it aims to meet 50% of its energy requirements from renewable energy by 2030. In addition to this, India also aims to cut the total projected carbon emissions by one billion metric tonnes by 2030.

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