“The disproportionate role of the richest”
In its most recent report entitled Climate equality: a planet for the 99%, Oxfam recalls that in 2019, the richest 10% on the planet were responsible for 50% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Conversely, the poorest 50% produced 8% of global emissions. “We must not only address the historical and current responsibilities of high-emitting nations and big corporations for their role in carbon emissions, but also, and above all, the outsized role that the richest people play in the climate crisis through their emissions, their investments and their influence on politics,” argue the authors of the report.
Investments that pay off… and pollute
The 1% of the super-rich alone were responsible for 16% of global GHG emissions, Oxfam suggests. In 2019, the emissions of the richest were also 27 times higher than the level allowing warming to be limited to 1.5 degrees. In addition to their own GHG emissions, those resulting from their investments in various companies are even more significant, Oxfam points out. “The share of billionaires’ investments in polluting industries was twice as large as that of the average investor,” we recall. Note that the Oxfam report was prepared in collaboration with the Stockholm Environment Institute, an NGO interested in environmental issues and sustainable development.
Rich people who influence policies
“The super-rich exert outsized influence on politics,” the report states. For example, Oxfam points out, American senators have a salary that places them in the 1% of global GHG emitters. Additionally, it is reported that members of the United States Congress hold $93 million in shares in fossil fuel industries. It is also estimated that personal emissions and those linked to the investments of billionaire Carlos Slim represent almost 7 million tonnes of CO equivalent.2 per year.
The result of a system to change
“This is an important report, because there is a discourse where we say that everyone must contribute (to reducing GHGs) while there are people who are more responsible than others” , says Corinne Gendron, professor in the department of strategy, social and environmental responsibility at UQAM. “We tend to blame the middle class for their way of life, when we need to put everyone’s responsibility into perspective. The Oxfam report shows that everyone’s efforts will not be enough. We see that those who must make the difference do not make the difference,” she adds, while specifying that the “ultra-rich” are also the result of a system that must be changed.
Global warming is accelerating
The Oxfam report was released almost at the same time as a UN assessment indicates that global warming is accelerating and could even reach 2.9 degrees by the end of the century. The UN reports that the odds of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees are now 14%. At the same time, the daily The Guardian released data from the International Energy Agency on Monday showing that the richest 10% in several countries emit 40 times more GHGs than the poorest 10% of these same nations.
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