World’s richest 1 per cent will emit too much to limit global warming to 1.5 C: study

The carbon footprints of the world’s richest one per cent are expected to be 30 times higher than the level needed to limit global warming to the 1.5 C target set out in the Paris Agreement in 2030.

That’s according to a new study commissioned by Oxfam and based on research carried out by the Stockholm Environment Institute and the Institute for European Environmental Policy.

The researchers sought to estimate how governments’ pledges will affect the carbon footprints of richer and poorer people around the world. To do this, they treated the global population and income groups as if they were a single country.

They found that the richest one per cent and the richest 10 per cent of the population are on track to emit 30 times and nine times, respectively, more carbon dioxide than the level compatible with the 1.5 C goal.

To put this statistic into perspective, someone in the richest one per cent of the population would need to reduce their emissions by approximately 97 per cent compared with today in order to meet the required level.

The poorest half of the global population, on the other hand, will still emit far below the 1.5 C-aligned level, according to the study.

“Over the past 25 years, the richest 10% of the global population has been responsible for more than half of all carbon emissions… Rank injustice and inequality on this scale is a cancer. If we don’t act now, this century may be our last,” Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General, was quoted as saying in the study.

As for why the carbon footprints of the super-rich are so much higher than those of the rest of the world’s population, the researchers cited billionaires’ houses, vehicles, private aircraft, and yachts as the main culprits.

The study’s authors pointed to a recent study in which 82 databases of public records were analyzed and showed that billionaires’ carbon footprints easily run to thousands of tonnes per year, with superyachts being the biggest contributor, each one adding 7,000 tonnes per year. 

The researchers said that earlier studies have shown that flights, especially on private jets, have also played a large role in increasing the carbon footprints of the rich and famous.

So has – more recently and “most egregiously,” according to the study – the introduction of “hyper-carbon-intensive luxury travel space tourism” in 2021. For example, a single 10-minute flight for around four passengers can burn hundreds of tonnes of carbon, the researchers said.

“Looking at total global emissions, instead of per capita emissions, the richest 1 per cent – fewer people than the population of Germany – are expected to account for 16 per cent of total global emissions by 2030, up from 13 per cent in 1990 and 15 per cent in 2015,” the researchers said.

With global leaders meeting to discuss climate change priorities at the COP26 conference in Glasgow this week, the study’s authors urged governments to commit to a timetable to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions to meet the 1.5 C goal on an equitable basis.

“It is time for governments to raise major taxes on or to outright ban highly carbon-intensive luxury consumption, from SUVs to mega yachts, private jets and space tourism, that represent a morally unjustified depletion of the world’s scarce remaining carbon budget,” the study’s authors wrote.

While the study painted a grim picture for the planet’s future climate targets, there was one glimmer of hope among the findings.

The Oxfam report found the middle 40 per cent of the world’s population are on course for per capita emissions cuts of nine per cent from 2015 to 2030, a sign that the 2015 Paris Agreement is having some impact.

“This is a turnaround for a group, which is mostly made up of citizens in middle-income countries like China and South Africa, that saw the fastest per capita emissions growth rates from 1990 to 2015,” the researchers said.

Source: Einnews

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