According to a new study, the richest 1% in the UK create as much greenhouse gas emissions in just one year as the bottom 10% over more than two decades. The data highlights the huge gap between what has been called the “polluting elite” and the majority of people, and shows how the actions of a few people affect us all.
The research of the Autonomy group
The report was produced by the Autonomy research group, which deals with tackling climate change, the future of work and economic planning. In the report, researchers looked at the carbon emissions of every income group in the UK from 1998 to 2018. It would take a low-income worker 26 years to produce the same emissions that the rich produce in one yearwhile the top earners (670,000 people) emit more carbon than the entire third income decile (6.7 million people).
The gap between rich and poor exists not only in the UK but in many other nations, including developing countries. Some research has identified the existence of an elite who have a different lifestyle from the majority of the population. For example, in Great Britain, 1% of citizens contribute 20% of international flights. The rich often have expensive cars, own several houses, consume a lot of meat and imported foods, and buy unsustainable goods. Conversely, the less well-off tend to they don’t go too far from their homes, they use public transport and buy few luxuries.
A growing problem
The report focuses on the UK, but the problem is similar in many parts of the world. A growing number of studies show that there is a “polluting elite” whose lifestyles bear little relation to those of most people. This is true in both developed and developing countrieswhere the poorest are responsible for a small amount of greenhouse gas emissions.
Because the rich pollute more
Driving big and expensive cars, owning multiple houses in different places and moving from one to another often, flying between different countries, eating a diet high in meat, and buying more clothes and imported goods are some of the reasons why the rich generate more emissions. Poorer people tend to stay closer to home and use public transport mostly.
Measures against climate change linked to pollution
This data demonstrates that a handful of people are overcontributing to climate change, but it also highlights that some quick steps can be taken to reduce our global greenhouse gas emissions. For example, one carbon tax.
What is the carbon tax
The carbon tax is by no means a new idea – in fact, it is a type of tax that has already been applied to various forms of pollution. The idea behind it is simple: when your business produces a negative external effect, you should account for it in the form of a tax. In this case, greenhouse gas emissions are a negative externality.
A carbon tax only for the richest in the world
According to Autonomy, a carbon tax on top earners could dramatically change these figures e raise $126 billion in cumulative tax revenue, if the price was in line with the Swedish government’s price of $115 per tonne. The Swedish government introduced a carbon tax in 1991, one of the first countries to do so.
An opportunity linked to the carbon tax
According to the report, these funding could have been used to reduce UK dependence on oil and coal to zero and reduce dependence on gas by 50%. It would also have increased UK grid capacity by 89GW with solar, wind and additional generation, as well as supporting over seven million UK homes to retrofit and increase their energy efficiency. In essence, this would be a decisive step for efforts to reduce climate change.
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