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‘Sacrificing us at the altar of their greed’: Richest 10% in EU emit as much carbon as poorest 50%

A man plays gold in Hawaii in 2018 as a huge ash plume rises behind him.
A man plays gold in Hawaii in 2018 as a huge ash plume rises behind him. Copyright AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
Copyright AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
By Ian Smith
Published on Updated
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A damning new report from Oxfam calls for a European wealth tax as the contribution of the EU’s richest to the climate crisis is laid bare.


The richest 10 per cent in the EU are responsible for as much carbon pollution as the poorest 50 per cent, a new report by Oxfam reveals.

“Their increasingly luxurious lifestyles and escalating opulence are wreaking havoc on our planet," says Oxfam EU tax expert Chiara Putaturo. “Meanwhile ordinary people are burdened with rising costs and the dire consequences of heatwaves, floods, and landslides caused by human greed.”

These outsized emissions of Europe’s richest will cause 67,800 heat-related excess deaths by 2100, the equivalent of almost 850 deaths every year.

Should Europe introduce a new wealth tax?

The charity is calling for a European wealth tax to raise nearly €250 billion a year which could be used to reduce pollution and inequality.

Through the European Green Deal the EU has set out ambitious climate targets, but question marks still remain over the financing of its implementation.

“We need a European wealth tax. Economists want it, multi-millionaires want it and people want it,” Putaturo says.

The report also outlines the stark global inequalities fuelling the climate crisis.

The richest 1 per cent of the world’s population, which includes billionaires, millionaires and those making above $140,000 (€128,172), produced as much carbon pollution in 2019 as the five billion people who made up the poorest two-thirds of humanity.

It argues that we need “a radical new approach if we are to stand any chance at overcoming the catastrophe unfolding before us.”

Greta Thunberg slams the greed of rich people

In a foreword to the new report Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg condemns the richest 1 per cent for “sacrificing us at the altar of their greed.”

She continues: “The people most responsible for the climate crisis – mainly white, privileged men – are also the ones who have been given a leading role in getting us out of it.

“How have we left the culprits in charge when there is so much at stake?”

How can we address global inequalities?

Oxfam is calling on governments to dramatically reduce inequality by a global redistribution of income in the form of a wealth tax.

It also calls for a quick and just transition away from fossil fuels and a change in mindset that prioritises the wellbeing of humans and the planet over endless profit and consumption.

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