The richest half a million people in Ireland emit almost the same amount of carbon as the poorest 50% of Irish society, it has been claimed.
And the richest 10% are responsible for over a quarter (27%) of our carbon emissions, according to Oxfam Ireland, which today published a report which said that the carbon emissions of the super-rich across the world are putting the planet at greater risk from climate change.
“Irish emissions have risen faster than any other EU country this year, by 12% and 9% in recent quarters,” Oxfam’s climate spokesperson Simon Murtagh said.
“It’s hard to see how we can curb these soaring omissions without taxing the wealth that is largely responsible.”
Oxfam said it had three key asks of the Irish Government. Firstly, it asked for a tax on rich polluters to close the gap between the super-rich “and the rest of us”. It also said we must stop using fossil fuels quickly and fairly, while also focusing our economies on people and the planet, “not on endless profits for rich polluters”.
“A just transition to a carbon-free future cannot happen without taxing wealth in our view,” Murtagh added.
On a global scale, the Oxfam report said that the richest 1% of people are responsible for as much of the carbon emissions as the poorest two-thirds of people on the planet.
Oxfam said that the “super-rich” are key to the climate story through factors such as their investments and shareholdings in heavily polluting industries, their use of private jets and yachts, and the “undue influence” they wield over politics and policy-making.
Projections from the Stockholm Environment Institute and Oxfam said that the emissions of the richest 1% are more than 22 times more than the “safe limit”, which are the emissions allowed if we are to stay below the global warming mark of 1.5C, in 2030.
“The super-rich are plundering and polluting the planet to the point of destruction, leaving humanity choking on extreme heat, floods, and drought,” Mr Murtagh said.
“Most super-rich polluters would like us to accept that we’re all equally responsible for climate breakdown. But we’re not the same at all. Far from it and the runaway inequality that fuels the climate crisis is evident globally and nationally in our figures.”
Based on an analysis of 125 billionaires, Oxfam found that on average they emitted 3m tonnes of CO2 a year through their investments, which it said was “over a million times more than the average for someone in the bottom 90% of humanity”.
“Through their investments and power over the economy, politics, policy, and the media, the superrich not only lock humanity into the continued use of fossil fuels, but also promote and support overconsumption and a carbon-based economy, making the reduction of emissions by others far harder,” the report said.
The report went on to claim that the emissions of the super-rich will lead to the heat-related deaths of 1.3 million people in the near future, equivalent to the population of Dublin.
Oxfam added it published its report ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai later this month, amid growing fears that the 1.5C target for curtailing rising temperatures is becoming ever-more unachievable.