Private jets are one of the reasons for the huge carbon footprint of billionaires. EFE
The richest 1% of people in Spain create as much pollution as a quarter of the population

The richest 1% of people in Spain create as much pollution as a quarter of the population

Less than half a million people pollute as much as twelve million citizens in the country, according to Oxfam Intermón calculations

Alfonso Torices


Wednesday, 22 November 2023, 18:47


Spain's richest 1% citizens, less than half a million people, pollute as much as twelve million people – a quarter of the country’s population – with their carbon dioxide emissions. Each Spanish billionaire, with his unbridled lifestyle, contributes 24 times more to the acceleration of climate change than a poor compatriot. That is the calculation of Oxfam Intermón in a report which states that the world’s richest 1% produced as much carbon dioxide emissions, the main cause of global warming, as the five billion people who make up the poorest two thirds of humanity.

In other words, the consumption of the world’s 77 million richest billionaires was responsible for 16% of total greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 (the last year with comparable data), which was greater than the pollutants released from all vehicles in circulation. And, the wealthiest 10% of the planet generated half of all carbon dioxide emissions.

The report, Climate Equality: One Planet for the 99%, is published a few days before the start of the United Nations climate summit in Dubai where it is expected that most countries will not commit to the emissions cuts needed to keep the temperature from rising more than 1.5C, above which climate disaster is a certainty.

The paper estimates that it would take about 1,500 years for anyone in the bottom 99% of humanity to generate the emissions that the top billionaires produce in a year. In fact, the pollution generated by the richest 1% in twelve months cancels out the carbon dioxide reductions achieved by almost one million wind turbines. In the last 30 years, the richest 1% have released twice as much carbon dioxide as the poorest half of humanity.

Experts believe that the half million people in Spain with the highest incomes would have to reduce their emissions by 95% between now and 2030 to comply with their part of the Paris Agreement to avoid a rise of more than 1.5C. Today that 1% of the rich spew 22 times more carbon dioxide into Spain's air than is compatible with compliance with the agreement.

Equivalent to the population of Dublin

Oxfam Intermón calculates that the excessive emissions of the 1% of the wealthy will be responsible for the death of 1.3 million people due to the disasters that climate change will unleash in this decade, a figure that is equivalent to the population of Dublin, the Irish capital. "The damages of climate change affect most those who are least responsible: people in situations of poverty and exclusion and future generations," said Lourdes Benavides, the head of climate justice of the international NGO. "The biggest polluters on the planet, the fossil fuel corporations, and the world's super-rich, are primarily responsible for the climate crisis. They are making record profits while those least responsible for the climate emergency are hit by its devastating consequences. Those who pollute the most must bear the cost," Benavides said.

The NGO calls on governments to address the twin crises of inequality and climate change by tackling the excess emissions of the richest people fiscally and investing the proceeds in improving public services and meeting climate targets. It estimates that taxing the incomes of the richest 1% at a rate of 60% would reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by a volume equivalent to that released by the UK each year and raise nearly six billion euros, which could be used to finance the transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy.

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