The top 10% of the world's richest account for 50% of all carbon emissions.
Photograph by Raphael Alves — AFP/Getty Images
By Jonathan Chew
December 2, 2015

The richest 10% of people in the world are responsible for half of global carbon emissions, according to a new study, while the poorest half produce just 10%.

The finding has contributed to an “extreme carbon inequality,” says a report released by Oxfam on Wednesday, and the 3.5 billion people in the world’s lower-income bracket are most threatened by the weather shocks linked to climate change.

“Rich, high emitters should be held accountable for their emissions, no matter where they live,” Oxfam climate policy head, Tim Gore, said in a statement.

In the report, Oxfam further highlighted the inequality in carbon emissions between the rich and the poor: Someone in the richest 1% of the world’s population uses 175 times more carbon on average than someone from the bottom 10%.

The report was released as more than 150 world leaders are gathered in Paris for the two-week United Nations Conference on Climate Change, where nations try to agree on a new pact to curb global carbon emissions.

One of the most talked-about moments in the conference so far has been India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi forcefully advocating for “climate justice,” meaning a developing nation like India should not suffer from decades of environmental neglect by developed regions like the U.S. and Europe.

The Oxfam report appears to side with Modi’s statement: It highlights how someone in the richest 10% of India’s citizens uses, on average, just one quarter of the carbon for a person falling in the poorest half of the U.S.

“Paris must be the start of building a more human economy for all—not just for the ‘haves,’ the richest and highest emitters,” said Oxfam’s Gore, “but also the ‘have-nots,’ the poorest people who are the least responsible for and most vulnerable to climate change.”



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