World’s richest 10% produce half of all carbon emissions while poorest contribute the least but suffer the most.

Media Releases article written on the 02 Dec 2015

In a new report, Extreme Carbon Inequality, Oxfam found the world’s richest 10 per cent produce half of all emissions, while the poorest, already vulnerable and facing the brunt of catastrophic storms, droughts, and other severe weather events linked to climate change, contribute the least

The poorest half of the world’s population – 3.5 billion people – are responsible for just 10 per cent of global emissions but are the most threatened by climate change, Oxfam said today.

While negotiators in Paris work to reach an agreement based on the total emissions produced by their nations, Oxfam’s analysis dispels the myth that citizens in rapidly developing countries are most to blame for climate change.

Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said while emissions were rising fastest in the developing world, much of this was for the production of goods consumed in other countries.

“Climate change and economic inequality are inextricably linked,” Dr Szoke said.

“The combined effects of poverty and a changing climate pose one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century. Australia must help reach an agreement that can deliver not only for the richest countries, but also for the world’s poorest communities, who are the least responsible for and most vulnerable to climate change.”

The report finds that those who would benefit most from a weak deal in Paris are a select group of billionaires, who have made their fortunes in the fossil fuel industry. Tackling the economic inequality these ‘carbon barons’ thrive on is critical both to ending extreme poverty and fighting climate change.

The report also finds that:

  • A person in the richest one per cent of the world’s population uses 175 times more carbon on average than someone from the bottom 10 per cent.
  • A person in the richest 10 per cent of citizens in India uses on average just one quarter of the carbon of someone in the poorest half of the population of the United States
  • The total emissions of the poorest half of the population of China, around 600 million people, are only one-third of the total emissions of the richest 10 per cent in the US, some 30 million people.

Australia has brought one of the weakest commitments of all comparable countries to Paris, despite being surrounded by nations who are suffering the worst from the impacts of climate change.

Despite the latest announcement by Prime Minister Turnbull of $1 billion to support climate change adaption, this represents no real increase and is not enough. New commitments must be made that reflect the enormity of the challenges vulnerable countries face and the responsibility Australia has to support the region.

“It’s easy to forget that rapidly developing economies are also home to the majority of the world’s very poorest people and while they have to do their fair share to slash emissions, rich countries must lead the way,” Dr Szoke said.

“Extreme carbon inequality must be capped. Any deal must keep the possibility of holding global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius alive, and increase funding to help the poorest and most vulnerable communities adapt to climate change.”

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