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Social inequality: Rich people are massively driving the climate crisis

The earth is heading for almost three degrees of warming, a UN report shows. There are huge differences in who contributes how much to the climate crisis.

Motorboat with splashing water.

High fuel consumption, just for fun: Motorboat at Classic Week in Monaco Photo: LaPresse/ap

BERLIN taz | Private jets, yachts, air-conditioned villas, large cars, pools: the richest one percent of humanity causes about as much CO2 emissions through their lifestyle as the “bottom” two-thirds. On one side there are around 77 million people, on the other 5 billion. That is Result of a study the development organization Oxfam, which was published on Monday.

The world’s richest percent include people with an annual income of over 140,000 US dollars. The data is from 2019. At that time, the richest one percent was responsible for almost 16 percent of CO2 emissions. These people have contributed significantly disproportionately to the climate crisis.

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The global divide can also be seen on a small scale in Germany. In this country, overall CO2 emissions are high, on average around 10 tonnes per person per year, while only 1 to 2 tonnes would be climate-friendly. According to Oxfam, the difference between people with a lot of money and those with less is enormous. The richest percent in the Federal Republic causes an average of 83.3 tons of CO2 emissions per person per year, around 15 times as much as the poorer half of the population.

“Through their extreme consumption, the rich and super-rich are fueling the climate crisis, which is threatening the livelihoods of billions of people with heat waves, droughts or floods, especially in the low-income countries of the Global South,” said Manuel Schmitt from Oxfam Germany. His conclusion: “To tackle the climate crisis, governments must also overcome the extreme inequality in the world, because extreme wealth is a key driver of the climate crisis.”

There is currently a threat of global warming of 2.5 to 2.9 degrees

Things are not going well to combat them. In the run-up to the World Climate Conference, which starts next week in Dubai, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) held its annual “Emissions Gap Report” – a report that calculates the gap between expectations and reality when it comes to climate protection.

According to this, the world is heading towards a warming of an average of 2.5 to 2.9 degrees compared to pre-industrial times. The governments have promised something different: According to the Paris Climate Agreement, it should end at “well below 2 degrees”, and if possible even at 1.5 degrees.

“There is not a single person or economy on the planet that is not affected by climate change,” UNEP boss Inger Andersen said on Monday.

“We must stop setting undesirable records in greenhouse gas emissions, global temperatures and extreme weather events,” said the expert. “We need other records: in reducing emissions, in the ecological and just transition and in financing climate protection and climate adaptation in the global south.”

UN chief Antònio Guterres also appealed to governments. “We know that it is still possible to make the 1.5 degree limit a reality,” he said on Monday. However: According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), emissions would have to be roughly halved in the seven years up to 2030 in order to be practically zero by 2050. “This requires us to remove the poisoned root of the climate crisis: fossil energy,” warned Guterres. “And it calls for a just energy transition.”

It is one of the foreseeable points of contention in Dubai: Can the states finally agree to agree in writing to phase out fossil fuels? This has failed so far, mainly due to protests from oil countries. The United Arab Emirates, the hosts of the summit, are also against it.

The world is currently at around 1.2 degrees of global warming. It has been proven that temperatures have already risen significantly numerous heat waves, but also heavy rain and floods and droughts – and thus lead to deaths, injuries and enormous damage.

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