Richest 1% of Global Elites Emit as Much Carbon as Bottom Two-Thirds

Private jets. Private yachts. Multiple holidays a year. Garages full of luxury vehicles. Investments driving – and profiting from – high polluting fossil fuel industries. These are just some of the factors that combine to see global elites, who comprise one percent of the planet’s population, emit the same amount of carbon as the world’s poorest two-thirds, or five billion people, an analysis published Sunday by the nonprofit Oxfam International details.

All this as the same rich and famous “super-emitters” from business, finance, entertainment, and politics tell the less fortunate to mind their carbon footprints.

While claiming to care about the earth’s environment is a shared challenge, not everyone is equally responsible for meeting desired outcomes, Max Lawson, who co-authored the report, told AFP.

“The richer you are, the easier it is to cut both your personal and your investment emissions,” he told the outlet. “You don’t need that third car, or that fourth holiday, or you don’t need to be invested in the cement industry.”

“Climate Equality: A Planet for the 99%”, was based on research compiled by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and it examined the consumption emissions associated with different income groups up to the year 2019.

The report was published as world leaders prepare to fly in for climate talks at the COP28 summit in Dubai later this month.

Among the key findings of this study are that the richest one percent globally — 77 million people — were responsible for 16 percent of global emissions related to their consumption.

That is the same share as the bottom 66 percent of the global population by income, or 5.11 billion people. The AFP report goes on:

The income threshold for being among the global top one percent was adjusted by country using purchasing power parity — for example in the United States the threshold would be $140,000, whereas the Kenyan equivalent would be about $40,000.

Within country analyses also painted very stark pictures.

For example, in France, the richest one percent emit as much carbon in one year as the poorest 50 percent in 10 years.

Excluding the carbon associated with his investments, Bernard Arnault, the billionaire founder of Louis Vuitton and richest man in France, has a footprint 1,270 times greater than that of the average Frenchman.

The key message, according to Lawson, is that policy moves must be instigated to curb the very richest who claim to care for the planet but are betrayed by their very actions.

“We think that unless governments enact climate policy that is progressive, where you see the people who emit the most being asked to take the biggest sacrifices, then we’re never going to get good politics around this,” he said.

While the current report focused on carbon linked only to individual consumption, “the personal consumption of the super-rich is dwarfed by emissions resulting from their investments in companies,” the report found.

Nor are the wealthy invested in polluting industries at a similar ratio to any given investor — billionaires are twice as likely to be invested in polluting industries than the average for the Standard & Poor 500, previous Oxfam research has shown.

The international COP 28 climate conference in Dubai begins on Nov. 30 and runs through Dec. 12.

The United Arab Emirates edition, in a nation renowned for being a major oil and gas producer, is the latest in a series of COP meetings on the impact of climate change and on measures pledged by governments to deal with it, including limits on involving greenhouse-gas producing activity.

The first Conference of the Parties, as COP is formally called, was held in 1995 in Berlin, and the gathering has since been held in various cities and on different continents.

Organizers are expecting more than 70,000 people to descend on Dubai’s Expo City for COP 28: activists, billionaires, presidents, Indigenous leaders, Hollywood entertainers, business executives, monarchs and diplomats flying in from every corner of the world.

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