New Oxfam figures show richest Australians create more emissions than all Pacific Islanders

Campaigns and Advocacy, Climate Change, Media Releases article written on the 11 Dec 2020

The richest 5% of Australians – about 1.2 million people – are responsible for more carbon emissions annually than all 11 million citizens of Pacific Island countries combined, a new Oxfam analysis has revealed ahead of the Pacific Islands Forum climate meeting and UN Climate Ambition Summit.

The analysis also found the energy consumption of Australians produces eight times as much carbon emissions each year as Pacific Islanders.

The findings have been revealed amid growing calls from Pacific Island leaders for the Australian Government to urgently accelerate action to tackle climate change – an approach that poll results show is supported by Australians.

An open letter published in the Sydney Morning Herald last week and signed by high profile Pacific political and religious leaders called for Prime Minister Scott Morrison to double Australia’s current Nationally Determined Contribution, cancel the controversial Kyoto credits and commit to net zero emissions by 2050.

The statement has received support from former Australian political and religious leaders, including Dr John Hewson and Kevin Rudd.

Oxfam Chief Executive Lyn Morgain said Australia owed it to Pacific Island nations, which are already bearing the brunt of the impacts of climate change, to do better and make stronger commitments at the upcoming meetings.

“There’s still time to take meaningful action, and step into line with the rest of the world by making more significant commitments and setting more ambitious targets.

“While cancelling the Kyoto ‘carryover credits’ would be a welcome first step, Australia must stand with our Pacific neighbours by matching our climate action ambition to the scale of the threat that faces these communities. At a minimum, Australia must cancel the credits and commit to net-zero emissions targets as soon as possible.”

A YouGov poll conducted in September showed strong public support for Australia to take action to cut emissions and phase out fossil fuels by 2030 to help protect Pacific nations from the impacts of climate change. The survey found more than two thirds of voters (68%) agreed this was a good enough reason for Australia to act on climate change.

“The Australian people know it’s time for us to do better, they know it’s time for our leaders to show they care about our Pacific family by stepping up, and by steering us away from fossil fuels and towards renewables,” Ms Morgain said. 

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Notes to editor:

  • The research was based on the most recent data on consumption emissions available, from 2015.
  • The energy consumption of Australians produces eight times as much carbon emissions each year as Pacific Islanders – 15.6 vs 2.2 tCO2/year. The estimate of the consumption emissions for the Pacific Islands assumes that the consumption emissions are 1.5 the production emissions. This is based on the comparison of consumption and production emissions of other developing island states. Production emissions are also taken from the Carbon Atlas. The carbon consumption emissions of Australia are taken from our database (joint Oxfam and Stockholm Environment Institute research).
  • The YouGov poll was conducted from September 14-16 with a nationally representative sample of 1,015 Australian voters.
  • This analysis builds on Oxfam’s earlier work with Stockholm Environment Institute to assess global carbon inequality here.