Emissions from the Richest 1% Are Killing Us. Literally.

by Oxfam Canada | November 20, 2023
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Photo: Robin Hammond/Panos

Tell Trudeau to Take Action.

The brutal inequality in the way the world’s super-rich 1 percent emit climate pollution is the focus of our latest report, Climate Equality: A planet for the 99 percent.

The report shows that just one year of greenhouse gas emissions from the world’s richest will kill nearly 1.3 million people this century from excess heat alone.

It isn’t just that the rich are getting richer (though that’s an important part of the story). They’re also responsible for a massive share of the carbon dioxide, methane, and other carbon pollutants driving climate breakdown across Canada and worldwide. In 2019, the richest 1 percent produced the same greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 as the world’s 5 billion poorest people or 66 percent of the global population, Oxfam’s research shows.

In Canada, the richest 1 percent produced 150 tonnes of carbon pollution per person, compared to just 5.2 tonnes for the poorest 50 percent. Those emissions will cause more than 13,000 deaths, just over 1 percent of the global total, through 2100.

Oxfam Climate Equality Report Stats

Oxfam Climate Equality Report. Photo Credits: Marten van Dijl/Greenpeace | John McAdorey/Adobe Stock


Meanwhile, people across Canada and around the world are hardest hit by the climate emergency. Our crops are dying and our food is impossibly expensive. Women are taking on more of the care work at home. Fires and floods are ripping apart our homes and communities while our skies fill with wildfire smoke.

Those impacts fall heaviest on people living in poverty, those experiencing marginalization, and countries across the Global South. And that much more on women and girls, Indigenous Peoples, people living in poverty, and other groups experiencing discrimination.

“The super-rich are plundering and polluting the planet to the point of destruction, leaving humanity choking on extreme heat, floods, and drought,” declares Amitabh Behar, Interim Executive Director of Oxfam International.

The path to economic and social justice and a safe, stable climate begins with holding the rich accountable. That’s why Oxfam is calling for a 60 percent income tax on the richest 1 percent, a measure that would cut global emissions by 700 million tonnes and raise $6.4 trillion per year for climate action. The emission cuts would be more than Canada’s total climate pollution in 2021. The desperately needed dollars would fund the shift off fossil fuels and deliver climate financing and climate justice to countries in the Global South.

“We must make the connection explicitly,” Behar writes. “Not taxing wealth allows the richest to rob from us, ruin our planet, and renege on democracy. Taxing extreme wealth transforms our chances to tackle both inequality and the climate crisis. These are trillions of dollars at stake to invest in dynamic, 21st century, green governments, but also to re-inject into our democracies.”

With this year’s United Nations climate change conference, COP28, coming up later this month, it’s time for action. Write to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today and tell him we have to do better. That a better world is possible, but only if polluters pay.


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