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The editorial of The Guardian emphasizes the importance of addressing the disparity in carbon emissions among the wealthy, specifically those who travel by private jet. It calls for climate policies to specifically target this group in order to effectively combat climate change.

The recent research on the carbon disparity between the ultra-wealthy and the rest of the world sheds light on the extravagant travel and leisure patterns of the rich, which include indulgences like luxurious yachts, private jets, and high-end cars. According to calculations conducted by various organizations such as Oxfam and the Stockholm Environment Institute, the top 1% of the wealthiest individuals generated the same amount of carbon emissions in a single year as the 5 billion people who make up the poorest two-thirds of the population. Despite being a mere 2,600 individuals, the collective wealth of the world’s billionaires surpasses that of most countries, with the exception of the US and China. Unfortunately, their carbon-heavy lifestyle has a tremendous impact on the environment.

However, the recent Guardian series titled “The Great Carbon Divide” has demonstrated that excessive emissions are not solely caused by a minority of the extremely wealthy. Additionally, these emissions are not limited to the larger group of individuals with a net worth of at least $1 million and energy-intensive lifestyles, who are referred to as the “polluter elite” by social scientist Dario Kenner. In reality, half of all emissions are attributed to the top 10%, which includes approximately 800 million individuals earning at least $40,000. Despite being considered middle income or middle class in their own countries, their consumption and emissions exceed those of 90% of the world’s population.

Many environmental activists have intentionally avoided placing blame on individuals for the world’s carbon problem, as this benefits oil and gas companies (both businesses and governments). BP’s creation of a carbon footprint calculator shifted the focus of global heating onto consumers rather than politicians. However, while lifestyle changes should not overshadow the responsibility of governments to transition away from fossil fuels, they should still be acknowledged as crucial in promoting and enforcing greener choices. It is important for policymakers to recognize their role in guiding and regulating environmentally-friendly decisions.

For instance, a majority of households in Norway use heat pumps as a result of taxes on heating with carbon and the government’s efforts to provide training for their installation. While Norway may be a small and affluent nation, implementing additional carbon taxes and regulations to limit emissions is crucial for reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. This must be done despite objections from free-market advocates who overlook the impact of subsidies and investment choices in maintaining the current system.

The United Nations’ efforts to address climate change have brought attention to the severe impact it has on developing countries, primarily caused by developed nations. A fund was established last year to address this issue, but contributions from wealthy nations have been inadequate. However, reducing carbon inequalities within and between countries is also crucial. Implementing policies such as progressive carbon taxes can help protect the living standards of poorer individuals. If governments fail to do so and instead cater to the interests of the wealthy, there is a growing risk of a backlash that could hinder progress in addressing climate change. French economist Thomas Piketty warns that this could lead to a large-scale movement like the “yellow vest movement”. Therefore, the concept of climate justice must be advocated for at both national and international levels.

Source: theguardian.com