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Huge emissions gap between top 1% and world’s poorest

The top 1% of earners create the same amount of carbon emissions in one year as what the bottom 10% creates over more than two decades, a new report has found.

Released today, the data from independent research organisation Autonomy shows how it would take low earner in the UK 26 years to emit as much carbon as the very rich in a single year.

The report, which examines the carbon emissions of each income group between 1998-2018, found the world’s roughly 670,000 top earners have released more carbon than the entire 3rd income decile – the equivalent of 6.7 million people.

This translates to around 2,015 tons of carbon dioxide being emitted by an individual in the top 1% over the 20-year period, compared to the 88 tons released by a person in the bottom 10%.

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But this isn’t all, as the study highlighted how a top earner releases more carbon than all the individuals of the first nine income deciles put together.

Autonomy says a carbon tax on the 1% could have dramatically altered these figures and raised £126 billion in cumulative tax revenue if priced in line with the Swedish government at £115 per ton.

The Swedish government has had a carbon tax in place since 1991, one of the first nations to bring it in, following Finland, with carbon emissions priced at $136 per ton.

According to Autonomy, the £126 billion a carbon tax, if invested into achieving net zero, could have resulted in five times more offshore wind capacity, triple the current solar capacity, and double the UK’s onshore wind.

2.1GW of tidal energy capacity could have been achieved and eight million homes could also have been upgraded to a C EPC rating.

The organisation is calling for the UK to install a carbon tax to tackle runaway emissions from the country’s top earners, who are able to fly more, buy more clothes which they dispose of and eat more meat.

‘Every year in which the excessive carbon impacts of the wealthiest 1% continue unabated is another lost year in revenue to fuel a green transition,’ the report reads. ‘If the UK leads the way, by looking to a proportionate tax on the wealthiest – often the least exposed to the effects of climate crisis, and those with the broadest shoulders – it can begin building a fund to support the vital transformation of the UK economy that current and future generations desperately need.’

Photo by Yaroslav Muzychenko

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