New report for COP 27
Investments by just 125 billionaires emit 393 million tonnes of CO2 each year -- the equivalent of France.
According to a report published by Oxfam today, a billionaire's average annual emissions is a million times higher than someone outside the richest 10% of humanity.
The report, Carbon Billionaires: The investment emissions of World's richest people, analyses the investments of 125 of the richest billionaires in some of the world's biggest corporates and the carbon emissions of these investments.
The report finds that these billionaires' investments - with a collective $2.4 trillion stake in 183 companies - give an annual average of 3m tonnes of CO2e per person, which is a million times higher than the average 2.76 tonnes of CO2e for those living in the bottom 90%.
The actual figure is likely to be higher still, as published carbon emissions by corporates have been shown to systematically underestimate the true level of carbon impact, and billionaires and corporates who do not publicly reveal their emissions, so could not be included in the research, are likely to be those with a high climate impact.
Jamie Livingstone, the head of Oxfam Scotland, said: “If we are to avoid climate breakdown, we need COP27 to expose and change the role that big corporates and their rich investors are playing in profiting from the pollution that is driving the global climate crisis. After all, it is people in low income countries who’ve done the least to cause it who are suffering the most - as we are seeing with the devastating drought in East Africa and the catastrophic floods in Pakistan.
“We need governments at all levels to use every tool they have to tackle this, which includes ensuring emission figures for the richest people are published, regulating investors and corporates to slash carbon emissions, and taxing wealth and polluting investments. Big corporates and the super-rich can’t be allowed to hide or greenwash.
“Right now, the role of the super-rich in super-charging climate change is rarely discussed. This has to change. These billionaire investors at the top of the corporate pyramid have huge responsibility for driving climate breakdown. They have escaped accountability for too long.”
Studies show the world's wealthiest individuals' investments account for up to 70% of their emissions. Oxfam used public data to calculate the investment emissions of billionaires with a stake of more than 10% in a corporation, by allocating them a share of the reported emissions of the corporates in which they are invested in proportion to their stake.
The study also found billionaires had an average of 14% of their investments in polluting industries such as non-renewable energy and materials like cement. This is twice the average for investments in the Standard and Poor 500. Only one billionaire in the sample had investments in a renewable energy company.
The choice of investments billionaires make is shaping the future of our economy, for example, by backing high carbon infrastructure -- locking in high emissions for decades to come. The study found that if the billionaires in the sample moved their investments to a fund with stronger environmental and social standards, it could reduce the intensity of their emissions by up to four times.
Oxfam has estimated that a wealth tax on the world's super-rich could raise $1.4 trillion a year, vital resources that could help developing countries -- those worst hit by the climate crisis -- to adapt, address loss and damage and carry out a just transition to renewable energy.
Meanwhile Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS) said it wants Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership on emissions matched by accelerated action to cut domestic emissions to as fears grow that more targets will be missed.
The Scottish Government is expected to release a new paper at COP27 on Loss and Damage finance - the money needed to address the destructive impacts of the climate crisis that can't be avoided by reducing emissions or adapting to rising temperatures.
It comes after the Scottish Government hosted an international conference on the issue last month. There are strong calls from the most climate-impacted countries for rich nations to use COP27 to finally create a global Loss and Damage Finance Facility, after more than three decades of blocking progress.
Mike Robinson, chair of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, said: “Since Glasgow hosted COP26 we’ve seen two damaging trends: a cost of living crisis made worse by our reliance on fossil fuels, and ever worsening climate impacts, with devastating floods in Pakistan and a drought in the Horn of Africa that’s pushing people towards famine.
“Meanwhile, the UN’s most recent report undermines claims that last year's talks kept the goal of limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees “alive”. As things stand our chances of limiting the damage to that critical threshold are slipping away fast.
“COP27 must refocus efforts to slash emissions while also dramatically increasing the financial support needed by impacted communities to both adapt to rising temperatures, and to address the devastating impacts of climate-induced losses and damages.
“Right now, there is a damaging mismatch between Scotland’s global leadership on loss and damage finance on the one hand and our failure to sufficiently invest in the actions needed to reduce our own emissions quickly enough on the other. This risks significantly tarnishing Scotland's climate credibility on the world stage.
“We therefore urge the Scottish Government to bolster the leadership it showed at COP26 by saying no to new oil and gas developments and prioritising a managed and just transition to renewables. We need to see more government investment in activities that both reduce emissions and alleviate the cost of living crisis, such as cheaper or free public transport, accelerated efforts to insulate buildings and faster development of community energy schemes.
“To help achieve this, we would also like to see the First Minister use her visit to the talks in Egypt to establish a time-limited, independent working group to assess available options to raise more finance by making polluters in Scotland pay.
"Scotland isn’t an official party to the UN talks, but we still have an opportunity to set a strong and credible example to those who are and demonstrate the leadership on climate the world so urgently needs.”