UN: World’s richest contribute half of polluting emissions

Wealthiest 1% have been to blame for a quarter of pollution growth in the last 30 years, a report claims

Big Zero Report 2023

Close to half the world’s yearly greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are created by the top 10% of polluters in society.

That’s according to a report backed by the UN, alleging that between 1990 and 2019, the top 1% of worldwide GHG emitters were to blame for a quarter of pollution growth.

The UN Development Programme has stated that the report shows the impact of historic emissions is being experienced first-hand by those who have done the least to contribute towards it.

“All individuals contribute to emissions but not in the same way. In addition to an obvious equity concern, there appears to be an efficiency question at stake,” the report read.

It calls for a change to tax regimes to ensure the wealthiest people on the planet are not allowed to continue in creating more emissions than the general populations of some cities or nations.

The study suggests a 1.5% wealth tax on the richest people in the world – generating around $175 billion (£144bn) each year if issued in Europe and the US – which could be used to help fast track poorer parts of the world in building renewable energy infrastructure.

An issue with the study, the researchers found, was establishing the correct data on the inequality in distributed emissions – calling for a better means to collect data on people’s emissions to not only help in setting targets and policies but also holding people to account for their impact on the climate.

Researchers involved in the report were from the World Inequality Lab.

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