Earth passed a feared global warming milestone, at least briefly
“The super-rich are looting and polluting the planet to the point of destruction, leaving humanity suffocating from extreme heat, floods and droughts,” Oxfam International’s interim executive director, Amitabh Behar, said in a press release on Monday. He called on world leaders to “end the era of extreme wealth.”
According to Oxfam’s report, the CO2 emissions of the world’s richest 1 percent exceeded the amount generated by all car and road transport globally in 2019, while the richest 10 percent accounted for half of global carbon emissions that year. Meanwhile, emissions from the richest 1 percent are enough to cancel the work of nearly 1 million wind turbines each year, Oxfam said.
“None of this is surprising, but you know it’s crucial,” said David Schlosberg, director of the Sydney Environment Institute at the University of Sydney. As political stakeholders head into this year’s UN climate conference, Schlosberg said the Oxfam report offers another way to discuss climate justice beyond the touchy subject of how specific industrialized nations have contributed to global warming.
“It’s been a big problem in climate justice – countries don’t want to pay for what they’ve done in the past,” he said. “So the interesting thing here is, okay, let’s not talk about historical responsibility, but current responsibility.”
Oxfam’s recommended solution is hardly new, but it is one that climate activists continue to champion: to tax the uber-rich and use the money to invest in renewable energy.
According to the Oxfam report, which calls for a new wave of taxes on corporations and billionaires, “a 60 percent tax on the incomes of the richest 1 percent would reduce emissions by more than the UK’s total emissions and raise $6.4 trillion a year. to pay for the transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy.”
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Some in recent years have also floated the idea of taxing behaviors with high carbon emissions, such as the purchase or use of private jets, yachts and high-end fossil fuel cars.
Over the summer, Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) proposed a tax on private jet travel and called on the wealthy to “pay their fair share” of environmental costs. Last year, Canada imposed a 10 percent tax on the purchase of luxury planes, boats and cars. And in recent years, celebrities like Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian, Drake and Taylor Swift have have all faced public backlash for using private jets, with Jenner’s plane once logging a 14-minute flight.
“The public understands inequality, and the public understands the inequality of the impact of climate change,” Schlosberg said. “… Specific taxes on high-emitting behavior are gaining traction with the public, so I could see in a number of countries that the pressure to do something is increasing.”