Latest Oxfam report confirms that climate action and social justice are two sides of the same coin

Oxfam’s new report, Climate Equality: A planet for the 99%, was published on 20 November 2023 and examines the causes and consequences of carbon inequality and the disproportionate impact of the super-rich, dubbed the ‘polluter elite’.

Marginalised communities and people in vulnerable socio-economic situations are the most affected by the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation. People experiencing poverty lack the means to protect themselves and recover from climate shocks and natural disasters. Outdoor workers in sectors such as agriculture, construction and transport are more exposed to poor air quality and extreme temperatures and weather, yet they have some of the weakest labour protections. Low-income individuals and families are more likely to live in climate-vulnerable areas and in poorly maintained or ageing housing that is not adapted to cope with the effects of climate change. The elderly, children and people with pre-existing health conditions are more vulnerable to climate-related hazards such as air pollution and intense heat waves. Food prices can soar due to harvest failures and supply chain disruptions caused by extreme weather events such as droughts and floods, putting a strain on those already struggling. Climate change threatens natural resources and ecosystems that are essential to indigenous peoples’ livelihoods, food sources and cultural practices. These are just some of the ways in which climate change exacerbates existing inequalities, and in many cases vulnerable groups are exposed to multiple environmental and climate-related hazards.

Socio-economic inequalities are also at the root of the climate and environmental crisis. A 2020 report by Oxfam and the Stockholm Environment Institute found that the richest 1% of the world’s population is responsible for more than twice as much global greenhouse gas emissions as the 3.1 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity, and that the richest 10% produce 52% of global emissions, while the poorest half of the world’s population account for just 7%. In its latest report, Climate Equality: A planet for the 99%, published on 20 November 2023, Oxfam updated this data and stressed that the richest 1% of humanity is responsible for more carbon emissions than the poorest 66%, with dire consequences for vulnerable communities and global efforts to tackle the climate emergency. While this elite group, made up of 77 million people including billionaires, millionaires and those paid more than US$140,000 a year, tend to live climate-insulated, air-conditioned lives, their emissions are responsible for immense suffering and would be enough to cause the heat-related deaths of 1.3 million people over the coming decades.

SOLIDAR supports Oxfam’s call for governments to act now and agrees with the three areas in which Oxfam proposes new policies and political action:

  • A radical increase in equality. We must rapidly and radically reduce economic inequality to make it possible to reduce emissions and end poverty, and to support the fight to end sexism, racism and other forms of oppression.
  • A fast, just transition away from fossil fuels. We must rapidly and substantially reduce carbon emissions, particularly by the richest countries, individuals and corporations, to keep global warming temperature rise below 1.5°C. We must use taxation of the richest to raise the trillions of dollars needed to fund this transition and to pay for the loss and damage already caused.
  • A new purpose for a new age. We must fundamentally change the goal of our economies to wellbeing for all and planetary flourishing. 

Read the full Oxfam report at this link.