Top 10pc in Ireland emits nearly as much emissions as bottom 50pc

21 Sep 2020

Image: © prescott09/

A new Oxfam report has estimated that the world’s richest 1pc contributes twice as much carbon emissions than 3.1bn of the poorest people on Earth.

Oxfam has warned governments against just “rebooting” economies in the wake of Covid-19 as it may further drive climate and financial inequalities. In its new Confronting Carbon Inequality report, the international charity found that the richest 1pc of the world’s population is responsible for more than twice as much carbon pollution as the 3.1bn people who made up the poorest half of humanity.

The research was conducted with the Stockholm Environment Institute and assessed the consumption emissions of different income groups between 1990 and 2015, a period where humanity has doubled the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Oxfam Ireland added that – in its own findings – the wealthiest 10pc of the Irish population emits nearly as much emissions as the bottom 50pc. This is despite there being five times as many people in the bottom 50pc.

Other findings showed that the wealthiest 10pc globally contributed more than half (52pc) of emissions during this 25-year period and that the richest 1pc were responsible for 15pc of these emissions. This is more than the emissions from the total number of EU citizens and twice that of the poorest half of humanity.

The wealthiest 10pc used up one third of the planet’s 1.5 degrees Celsius carbon budget during this time, compared to just 4pc for the poorest half of society. During the 25-year period, annual emissions grew by 60pc, of which the richest 5pc accounted for more than a third (37pc).

The total increase in emissions of the richest 1pc was three times that of the poorest 50pc, Oxfam said.

‘Fuelling the climate crisis’

“The over-consumption of a wealthy minority is fuelling the climate crisis, yet it is poor communities and young people who are paying the price,” said Tim Gore, head of climate policy at Oxfam and the author of the report. “Such extreme carbon inequality is a direct consequence of our governments’ decades-long pursuit of grossly unequal and carbon intensive economic growth.”

In its projections for the future, the report said that the per capita emissions of the richest 10pc will need to be 10 times lower by 2030 in order to keep the global average temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius. It said that if per capita emissions for the richest 10pc were reduced to the EU average, annual emissions would decrease by more than 25pc.

Jim Clarken, chief executive of Oxfam Ireland, said: “Simply rebooting our outdated, unfair, and polluting pre-Covid economies is no longer a viable option.

“Governments must seize this opportunity to reshape our economies and build a better tomorrow for us all.”

Oxfam Ireland also called on the Irish Government to implement new measures in Budget 2021, including an end to tax breaks for aircraft fuel and introducing policy measures targeting luxury emissions.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic