Oxfam International

11/20/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 11/21/2023 02:07

EU’s richest 10% emit as much planet-heating emissions as half the EU’s poorest population

A European wealth tax would raise nearly €250 billion a year which could be used to fight the climate crisis and inequality.

The richest 10 percent of Europeans produced as much carbon pollution in 2019 as half of Europe's poorest population, Oxfam reveals today. These findings, based on Oxfam's new report "Climate Equality: A Planet for the 99%", come ahead of the UN climate summit in Dubai and amid growing fears that the 1.5°C target for curtailing rising temperatures appears increasingly unachievable.

In Europe, a person from the richest 1 percent emits on average 14 times more carbon (CO2) than a person in the bottom 50 percent. These outsized emissions of Europe's richest will cause 67,800 heat-related excess deaths by 2100, the equivalent of almost 850 deaths every year.

"Europe's wealthiest are also Europe's biggest polluters. Their increasingly luxurious lifestyles and escalating opulence are wreaking havoc on our planet. Meanwhile ordinary people are burdened with rising costs and the dire consequences of heatwaves, floods, and landslides caused by human greed. The EU must step in and make Europe's richest polluters pay up", said Chiara Putaturo, Oxfam EU tax expert.


  • The richest 1 percent (77 million people) were responsible for 16 percent of global consumption emissions in 2019 - more than all car and road transport emissions. The richest 10 percent accounted for half (50 percent) of emissions.

  • It would take about 1,500 years for someone in the bottom 99 percent to produce as much carbon as the richest billionaires do in a year. Every year, the emissions of the richest 1 percent cancel out the carbon savings coming from nearly one million wind turbines.

  • The carbon emissions of the richest 1 percent are set to be 22 times greater than the level compatible with the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement in 2030.

Climate breakdown and inequality are locked in a vicious cycle - seven times more people die from floods in more unequal countries. Oxfam has seen first-hand how people living in poverty, women and girls, Indigenous communities and low- and middle-income countries are facing the brunt of the climate crisis.

The EU and EU governments can tackle the twin crises of inequality and the climate crisis by introducing a European wealth tax which targets the excessive emissions of the super-rich, and channels this wealth into public services and meeting climate goals. Oxfam calculates that a wealth tax on European multimillionaire's and billionaires could generate 250 billion euro, the equivalent to one third of the EU's recovery fund which partially finances the EU Green Deal.

"We need a European wealth tax. Economists want it, multi-millionaires want it and people want it. That is why we are supporting a petition calling for a European wealth tax. There are billions of euros at stake to invest in fighting poverty and inequality, and the climate crisis", said Putaturo.