Rich should pay for greater carbon footprint, study says

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  • Rich people should pay more tax to compensate for a greater carbon footprint, says a study.
  • The World Inequality Lab says the top 1% emitted 110 tonnes of carbon.
  • The 50% poorest emitted 12%.

As rich people have a greater carbon footprint than the poor they should pay more tax to compensate, says a study by the World Inequality Lab (WIL) published ahead of the upcoming COP26 climate conference in Glasgow.

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With carbon emission levels returning to pre-pandemic levels, most recent data shows the richest 1% of the globe's population emitted 110 tonnes of CO2 per head in 2019, study head, Paris School of Economics professor and WIL co-director Lucas Chancel said on Wednesday.

Emissions rise from a tower of the Eskom Holdings
Eskom's Kusile power station in Mpumalanga.
All regions are expected to be affected by climate change, according to the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

That made their share a hugely disproportionate 17% of the global total.

READ | Africa's glaciers to melt, millions of poor face drought, floods, UN says

Moreover, whereas the richest 10% were responsible for half of all emissions, the poorest 50% accounted for just a 12% share - at a per capita average of 1.6 tonnes of carbon.

"Governments need new sources of revenue to invest in green infrastructures," said Chancel.

He added:

One way to do so is via progressive and ecological wealth taxes. Such tools are likely to be more politically sustainable than carbon taxes on consumption, which hit low-income groups hard and don't do a great job at reducing emissions of the very wealthy.

The study found that the burden of climate policies in an attempt to limit climate change has been "disproportionately borne by low-income consumers over the past decades, in particular via carbon and energy taxes.

"More emphasis should be placed on policy instruments targeting wealthier groups, via taxes on the ownership of polluting assets," such as fossil fuel investments.

Not only do rich people tend to pollute more but developed countries similarly have a much higher carbon footprint when their import and use of products made abroad is taken into account, the study shows.

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