With political and environmental leaders from 195 countries currently meeting in Paris to discuss a new climate deal, Oxfam has released figures that it hopes will guide the decision-making process in the French capital. According to the charity’s report, the richest 10 percent of the world’s population are responsible for 49 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. By comparison, the poorest half of the world produce just a tenth of total emissions.
These figures are based on a report provided by Glen Peters of the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research, and refer only to individual consumption. In other words, they represent the emissions generated by the lifestyles of citizens, and exclude those produced by government consumption and general infrastructure. In total, individual consumption accounts for 64 percent of global carbon emissions, the Oxfam report states.
Using this data, it is estimated that the average emissions of a person in the poorest half of the world’s population are around 11 times lower than those of the average person in the top 10 percent. Emissions generated by the average person in the poorest tenth of the world, meanwhile, are said to be 60 times less than those of their counterparts in the richest 10 percent.
Figures show that the richest 10 percent of the world's population produce 49 percent of total carbon dioxide emissions. Image credit: Oxfam
Additionally, the report states that the poorest people in each country are likely to be most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, as they are typically the least well equipped to deal with natural disasters. For instance, around a third of those living in the path of Superstorm Sandy – which hit New York in 2012 – were living in government-assisted housing, with half of these people being displaced by the storm.
This trend is also seen on a global level, with the report stating that “the poorest half of people on the planet live overwhelmingly in countries that are considered the most vulnerable to climate change.” Such a claim is very much in line with evidence presented at the Paris climate summit, where attendees have been drawing attention to the imminent threat facing South Pacific island nations such as Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands, due to rising sea levels.
Many of the countries most vulnerable to climate change are among the least responsible for global carbon emissions. Image credit: Oxfam; Center for Global Development Climate Change Vulnerability Index
In light of this data, Oxfam has provided some guidelines which it recommends be taken into account by officials in Paris when devising a new climate agreement. For instance, it suggests that policies be put in place to enable developed countries to take the lead in switching to 100 percent renewable energy by the second half of the century, while also providing support and assistance for developing countries to do the same.
By following this and a range of other suggestions, Oxfam hopes that the outcome of the summit will enable key climate change targets to be met – including the objective, agreed in 2009, to limit the rise in global temperature to 2°C (3.6°F). However, several reports have suggested that the current pledges made by global governments to cut carbon emissions are unlikely to be sufficient to meet this target, indicating a need for greater commitment to reducing these emissions.