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Image via Wikimedia Commons user U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The world’s poorest will suffer the most from climate change. This is far from news: A member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said it in 2007, and the World Bank reported it in 2013.


But a new analysis by the charity organization Oxfam International points its finger at a culprit: the world’s richest. About half the world’s emissions can be attributed to its wealthiest 10 percent, the organization says. These wealthy people create 60 times the emissions produced by the poorest 10 percent.

As Oxfam puts it: “The average footprint of the richest 1 percent of people globally could be 175 times that of the poorest 10 percent.”

Should the rich bear the burden of climate change action?

The Oxfam report comes amidst talk of the growing carbon emissions of the world’s most rapidly developing economies. But as the IPCC has said that this is partly because developed countries “outsource” their emissions to other, poorer countries. Nearly 15 percent of China’s emissions, for example, are created while producing goods for export.

That’s why climate change activists are calling on rich nations to make the first, major steps in combating the phenomenon.

“Rich, high emitters should be held accountable for their emissions, no matter where they live,” Tim Gore, Oxfam’s policy head, said in a statement. “But it’s easy to forget that rapidly developing economies are also home to the majority of the world’s very poorest people and while they have to do their fair share, it is rich countries that should still lead the way.”

The Paris connection

Oxfam released its report in the midst of the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference (COP 21), which began in Paris on November 30 and will run through December 11. Negotiators from 195 countries and organizations will participate in the meeting, which aims to reduce climate change and limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. President Obama has said that the talks could be a climate change turning point, but as Oxfam argues, it is up to the richest to make the most meaningful changes.

Image via Wikimedia Commons user Andreas Praefcke

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has argued that countries responsible for the bulk of climate change thus far—the United States, Britain, Germany, and others—should make the most sacrifices to stop the world from getting even warmer.

“We hope advanced nations will assume ambitious targets and pursue them sincerely,” Modi said during an address in Paris Monday. “It is not just a question of historical responsibility. They also have the most room to make the cuts and make the strongest impact.”

(Via AFP)

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