Confronting Carbon Inequality


  • According to a new report titled- Confronting Carbon Inequality, by Oxfam and the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), the extreme carbon inequality in recent decades that has driven the world to the climate brink.

Major Findings

The Era of Extreme Carbon Inequality

  • The 25 years from 1990 to 2015 saw a rapid escalation of the climate crisis, as global annual carbon emissions grew by around 60%.
  • Around half the emissions of the richest 10% (24.5% of global emissions) are today associated with the consumption of citizens of North America and the EU, and around a fifth (9.2% of global emissions) with citizens of China and India.
  • The richest 10% of humanity accounted for 52% of the cumulative emissions, depleting the global carbon budget for 1.5C by nearly a third (31%).
  • The poorest 50%accounted for just 7% of cumulative emissions, and a mere 4% of the budget.

Carbon Inequality is driving the World to the Climate Brink

  • The world's poorest 3.5 billion people contribute little to carbon emissions but are most affected by climate impacts like floods, storms, and droughts.
  • Extreme carbon inequality is the result of political choices made over the past 20-30 years.
  • It is a direct consequence of our governments’decades long pursuit of unequal and carbon intensive economic growth.

Unequal Growth and Climate Justice

  • Unequal economic growth slows poverty reduction rates.
  • Unequal growth has another implication: it means that the global carbon budget is being rapidly depleted, not for the purpose of lifting all of humanity to a decent standard of living, but to a large extent to expand the consumption of a minority of the world's very richest people.
  • Women also often experience the impacts of climate change differently from men:whether walking further to collect water, being last to eat during droughts, or assuming most of the household caring responsibilities in the wake of extreme weather.

Tackling Carbon Inequality

  • To limit global heating to 1.5C, global average per capita emissions should be approximately 2.1t/year by 2030.

Recommendations for Economic Recovery from COVID-19

  • The right public policy measures, enacted now, can both cut the emissions and create healthier, more cohesive and resilient societies.
  • In addition to essential measures to rapidly shift energy supply to sustainable renewable sources, governments should consider:
    • Wealth taxes, luxury carbon taxes and wider progressive carbon pricing to fund the expansion of universal social services
    • Ending the tax-free status of aircraft fuel and tax breaks for company cars
    • Public investment to create decent job guarantees
    • Changing corporate governance to curtail company’s short-termism
    • Setting science- and equity-based national targets to reduce carbon emission
    • Developing a wider set of gender-transformative indicators of economic progress beyond GDP, such as New Zealand's Wellbeing Budget
    • Incorporating principles of social dialogue at all levels to ensure the wellbeing of workers in affected industries, women, low-income and marginalized groups.