Climate change is inextricably linked to economic inequality: it is a crisis that is driven by the greenhouse gas emissions of the ‘haves’ that hits the ‘have-nots’ the hardest. In this briefing Oxfam demonstrates the extent of global carbon inequality by estimating and comparing the lifestyle consumption emissions of rich and poor citizens in different countries. Strikingly, our estimates of the scale of this inequality suggest that the poorest half of the global population – around 3.5 billion people – are responsible for only around 10% of total global emissions attributed to individual consumption, yet live overwhelmingly in the countries most vulnerable to climate change. Around 50% of these emissions meanwhile can be attributed to the richest 10% of people around the world, who have average carbon footprints 11 times as high as the poorest half of the population, and 60 times as high as the poorest 10%. The average footprint of the richest 1% of people globally could be 175 times that of the poorest 10%. While COP21 in Paris will see a deal negotiated between governments on the basis of the total emissions produced in their territories, the real winners and losers will be their citizens. The litmus test of the deal will be whether it delivers something for the poorest people who are both the least responsible for and the most vulnerable to climate change, wherever they live.
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