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World's richest 1% produced 'double the CO2 of the poorest half'

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By Mathieu Pollet
The richest 10% of the world’s population have been responsible for 52% of the cumulative carbon emissions
The richest 10% of the world’s population have been responsible for 52% of the cumulative carbon emissions   -   Copyright  Patrick Hendry/Unsplash   -  

The world's richest 10% were responsible for more than half of cumulative carbon emissions in the quarter-century to 2015, according to new estimates.

Oxfam International and the Stockholm Environment Institute made the claim in a new report published on Monday (September 21).

It says the climate crisis is being driven by the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere over time, meaning that the drop off of emissions during the coronavirus lockdowns are unlikely to make a major difference.

Looking at the 1990-2015 period, the report claims the world's richest 10% was responsible for 52% of cumulative emissions.

Meanwhile, the richest 1% produced 15% of CO2. That is more than double the 7% the poorest half of the planet's population is responsible for, according to the estimates.

The report said the top 10% have depleted the global carbon budget — the maximum amount of emissions that can be added while respecting the Paris Agreement's 1.5℃ goal — by nearly a third.

While the coronavirus lockdowns have granted some relief, they calculated the 1.5℃ global carbon budget will be fully depleted by 2030.

"The inequality is such that the richest 10% alone would fully deplete it by just a few years later, even if everyone else's emissions dropped to zero tomorrow," the report read.

"Poorer and marginalised people already struggling with climate impacts (...) and future generations" have been identified as the two groups that are the most affected by this injustice, Oxfam noted, while being "those least responsible for the climate crisis".

Transport is being frowned upon

Transport is a major cause, according to the report. Air and land travel accounted for more than half of the total CO2 emissions for the EU's richest 1%.

But a spokesperson for French airlines association SCARA told Euronews that "the industry is the only one which agreed globally to take action against climate change".

In 2016, the United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) adopted the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) which aims to meet the industry's commitment to carbon-neutral growth from 2020.

Under CORSIA, which will be universal from 2027, SACRA explained airlines will be required "to buy carbon offsets from programmes and projects — that plant trees for instance" to compensate for CO2 emissions.