DR Ambedkar IAS Academy

Confronting Carbon Inequality

  • The Oxfam International and the Stockholm Environmental Institute (SEI) has released a report titled “Confronting Carbon Inequality”, which highlights that a rich person contributes more to the climate crisis than a poor person.

Data Analysis between 1990 and 2015:

  • A rich person contributes more to the climate crisis than a poor person.
  • The richest 1 per cent of humanity accounted for 15 per cent of cumulative emissions, while the poorest 50 per cent accounted for only 7 per cent.
  • Depletion of Carbon Budget: The richest 1 per cent depleted the global carbon budget for 1.5 degrees Celsius by 9 per cent. The richest 10 per cent depleted carbon Budget by 31 per cent. The poorest 50 per cent used only 4 per cent of the carbon budget. While the richest 10 per cent accounted for 46 per cent of emissions growth, the poorest 50 per cent accounted for only 6 per cent.
  • The report underlined the need to focus on clipping emissions of the richest 10 per cent: Reduction of the per capita footprint to the 1.5°C consistent level by 2030 would cut annual carbon emissions by over a third.
  • About half of the emissions of the richest 10 per cent are associated with North America and the European Union (EU).

Indian Comparison with Others:

  • An Indian emitted only 1.97 tonnes of CO2 (tCO2) annually, while Americans and Canadians both emitted well over 16 tCO2.
  • The per capita CO2 emissions of the richest 10% of Indians were about 4.4 tonnes in 2018, in comparison to the per capita emissions of the richest 10% Americans were 52.4 tonnes, almost 12 times that of the richest Indians.
  • India’s per capita emissions were a fraction of not just the EU (6.78 tCO2/person), but also China (7.95 tCO2/person), making it the lowest per capita emitter amongst the world’s large economies.
Search and buy domains from Namecheap. Lowest prices!

Highlighted Concerns:

  • The global carbon budget is being rapidly depleted due to the increasing consumption of the rich in the name of dignity and a decent standard of living.
  • The report briefly acknowledged the intersectionality of income inequality and the climate crisis with factors such as race, class, gender, caste and age.
  • Global consumption and production models are driven by tenets of capitalistic growth and neoliberalism and it is impossible to decouple those systems from resource extraction and environmental degradation.
  • Moderate measures such as carbon tax and non-binding climate commitments from corporations and countries are inadequate while considering the scale of transformation.


  • Systemic change rather than a sole focus on individual action.
  • Clip emissions of the richest 10% and reduce the per capita footprint to the 1.5°C-consistent level by 2030 which would cut annual carbon emissions by over a third.
  • Call for “new economic models that do not depend on the endless growth in consumption of the already affluent”
  • Comprehensive approaches like the Green New Deal (popular in the USA in 2018 and different from the European Green Deal), which might help avert the worst of the climate crisis amid widespread income inequality and imbalanced power structures.
  • Wealth redistribution via taxes on the wealthiest, rapid decarbonisation via large-scale public investments in clean energy and low carbon transportation, mass mobilization and the creation of a social safety net through measures like jobs guarantee programme and universal healthcare.
Domain names for just 88 cents!

Way Forward

  • The findings of the study highlight the importance of the concept of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) which establishes that all states are responsible for addressing global environmental destruction yet not equally responsible.
  • The general principles of equity in international law must be adhered to. The historical correlation between higher levels of development and a greater contribution to the degradation of global environmental resources, such as water and air, must be recognised.
  • Therefore, the developed countries, which had been able to develop for longer times unimpeded by environmental restrictions, now need to take a greater share of responsibility.

Oxfam is a global organisation with affiliates in 20 countries, working together to end the injustice of poverty.

The Stockholm Environmental Institute SEI is an international non-profit research and policy organisation which promotes sustainability in policymaking.

A carbon budget is a cumulative amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions permitted over some time to keep within a certain temperature threshold. Or an upper limit of total carbon dioxide emission associated with remaining below a specific global average temperature.

A carbon tax is a levy imposed on the burning of carbon-based fuels (coal, oil, gas) for reducing and eventually eliminating the use of fossil fuels whose combustion is destabilizing and destroying climate. It is a powerful monetary disincentive that motivates transition to clean energy across the economy, simply by making it more economically rewarding to move to non-carbon fuels and energy efficiency.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *