Top 10% of earners responsible for over a quarter of Ireland's carbon emissions

The bottom half of Irish earners emit only 29% of emissions, despite having five times more people than the top 10%
Top 10% of earners responsible for over a quarter of Ireland's carbon emissions

The top 10% of Irish earners are responsible for 26% of the nations carbon emissions. Picture: John Giles/PA Wire

The top 10% of Irish earners are responsible for over a quarter (26%) of the nations carbon emissions, according to a new report from Oxfam Ireland.

The bottom 50% emits only 29% of emissions, despite having five times more people in it (about 475,000 people compared to 2,375,000 people in the top 10%).

The report, based on data from Oxford and Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), assesses the carbon consumption emissions generated by different income groups in Ireland from 1990 to 2015.

Based on 2015 data, the top 1% in Ireland have an average per capita carbon footprint of 66 tCO2, compared to 5 tCO2 for the average Irish citizen.

To achieve Ireland’s Paris Agreement commitments, we need to reach an average per capita carbon footprint of just 2.1 tCO2 by 2030.

Oxfam Ireland’s report coincided with the release of global research conducted by Oxfam and the SEI which revealed similar unequal carbon emissions trends.

Between 1990 and 2015, global annual carbon emissions grew by around 60%, and the total emissions added to the atmosphere since the mid 1800s approximately doubled.

In this 25 year span, the richest 5% globally accounted for over a third (37%) of the total growth in carbon emissions. 

In response to the Oxfam report, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg said "we are not equally responsible for stealing the future." Picture: Mary Altaffer
In response to the Oxfam report, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg said "we are not equally responsible for stealing the future." Picture: Mary Altaffer

In the global report, Oxfam and SEI stated that coronavirus restrictions resulted in a fall in global emissions this year but unless emissions continue to decline rapidly, the 1.5C global carbon budget will be fully depleted by 2030.

Oxfam Ireland is calling on the Irish government to address our extreme carbon inequality by introducing focused policy measures targeting excessive and luxury emissions (such as private jets and SUVs), ending tax breaks for aircraft fuel and exploring ways to discourage frequent fliers, and ending government bailouts and subsidies for sectors associated with luxury carbon consumption.

“The new Irish government needs to confront extreme carbon inequality,” Oxfam Ireland said.

“To continue to prioritise unequal carbon-based economic growth will mean jumping from the frying pan of the current pandemic to the fire of an uncontrolled and irreversible climate crisis," the group said. 

“Those most responsible for causing climate change, both in Ireland and around the world, have the most responsibility for addressing this issue. To do this Ireland must put tackling the twin climate and inequality crises at the heart of their Covid 19 economic recovery," they concluded. 

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