The super rich produce as much carbon pollution as the poorest five billion people on earth. Oxfam is calling on the federal government to implement a billionaire wealth tax and a windfall profits tax.
November 19, 2023 (Ottawa) — Oxfam today released the report Climate Equality: A Planet for the 99% showing how the impacts of climate breakdown are brutally unequal. The report comes ahead of the UN climate summit in Dubai, COP28, amid growing fears that the 1.5°C target for curtailing rising temperatures appears increasingly unachievable.
Super rich polluters are getting richer, but are insulated from the worst climate impacts. Meanwhile, ordinary Canadians and people everywhere are hardest hit by the climate emergency, from crops dying, to food being impossibly expensive, more care work for women, and homes destroyed by fires and floods.
Based on research from the Stockholm Environment Institute, Climate Equality: A Planet for the 99% assesses the consumption emissions of different income groups in 2019, the most recent year for which data are available. The report shows the stark gap between the carbon footprints of the super-rich —whose carbon-intensive lifestyles and investments in polluting industries like fossil fuels are driving global heating— and the majority of people around the world.
The impacts of climate breakdown are brutally unequal
“Every day Oxfam works with women and girls, Indigenous peoples and other people living in poverty who are disproportionately impacted by the climate emergency. They’re hardest hit as the climate crisis drives up poverty and inequality. This new research reveals who’s mainly responsible for the carbon pollution driving climate breakdown: it’s the super rich,” said Dana Stefov, climate justice policy lead at Oxfam Canada.
Devastating impacts of the super rich
The richest 1% produce as much carbon pollution as the poorest five billion people on earth. That’s the super rich – with their massive investments in dirty industries, along with their private jets, yachts and lavish lifestyles – polluting as much as five billion people put together.
Carbon emissions of the richest 1 percent globally surged to 16 percent of world’s total CO2 emissions in 2019. These outsized emissions of the global richest 1% were enough to cause 1.3 million heat-related excess deaths, roughly equivalent to the population of Calgary, Alberta.
The richest 1 percent in Canada emitted thirty times more carbon pollution per person in 2019, on average, compared to the half of the Canadian population in the lowest income brackets.
“Everyday Canadians are doing their part, but any progress is stamped out by the super rich,” said Stefov. Between 1990 and 2019, the bottom 90% of Canadians by income reduced their share of consumption emissions by 16%, but the super rich top 1% increased their share of emissions by 31%.
Implement a billionaire wealth tax and a windfall profits tax
Oxfam Canada is calling on the federal government to implement a billionaire wealth tax and a windfall profits tax to make sure the richest Canadians and biggest companies pay their fair share. Super rich polluters must pay for the harms they cause and the climate actions needed to protect ordinary people. Governments can tackle the twin crises of inequality and climate change by targeting the carbon-intensive wealth of the super-rich, and investing in climate solutions.
Oxfam estimates a tax on the incomes of the richest 1 percent globally would raise USD $6.4 trillion a year to pay for the transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy. In Canada, the Parliamentary Budget Officer has calculated that a wealth tax and a windfall profits tax could generate at least CAD $9.8 billion a year.
“Billionaires are driving climate breakdown with their lavish lifestyles, polluting stock portfolios and outsized political influence. Taxing the super rich not only reduces wealth inequality but will drive down their excessive emissions and ramp up public investments in green solutions. There are trillions of dollars at stake globally,” said Stefov.
Oxfam is calling on governments, including Canada, to:
- Get off fossil fuels quickly and fairly.
- Implement a billionaire wealth tax and a windfall profits tax to make sure the richest Canadians and biggest polluting companies pay their fair share.
- Support a fair international finance deal at this year’s UN climate conference, COP 28, with governments, corporations and individuals most responsible for causing the climate crisis footing the bill.
- Dramatically reduce inequality, including gender inequality, while fighting the climate crisis.
Notes to editors
- Download Climate Equality: A Planet for the 99% and the methodology note. The Stockholm Environment Institute’s Emissions Inequality Dashboard is also available for consultation.
- See Oxfam Canada’s petition to the Prime Minister calling for progressive taxation to Make Rich Polluters Pay.
- According to the UN, more than 91 percent of deaths caused by climate- and weather-related disasters over the past 50 years occurred in the Global South. Evidence shows that inequalities between rich and Global South countries are already 25 percent larger than they would be in a world without global warming. Worldwide, 80% of climate migrants are women. Women are 14 times more likely to die during a climate disaster.
- Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Officer has published research notes on implementing a wealth tax and a windfall profits tax on the oil and gas sector.
Oxfam Canada is an affiliate of the international Oxfam Confederation networked in 87 countries as part of a global movement for change. Our mission is to build lasting solutions to poverty and injustice, focusing on improving lives and promoting the rights of women and girls.
We work directly with communities, partners, and women’s rights organizations to challenge the systems that perpetuate inequality and keep people poor. Together we seek to influence those in power to ensure that women trapped in poverty have a say in the critical decisions that affect them, their families, and entire communities. Because ending global poverty begins with women’s rights.
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