To move towards zero carbon, the government must focus on overconsumption by the wealthy and powerful
While the government gears up to hold the Cop26 summit in Glasgow, it continues to bail out Britain’s biggest polluters by granting tax credits to major oil and gas firms and slashing taxes on domestic flights within the UK. This is precisely the wrong way to go about meeting the Paris climate targets. If ministers are serious about the government’s environmental agenda, they should be enforcing policies that dramatically reduce the carbon footprints of society’s richest, and severing political ties with polluting industries.
In a recent report that I co-authored with a team at Sussex University, we argue that governments must focus on addressing the overconsumption of the rich in order to successfully drive down emissions. According to one recent analysis, emissions from the poorest 50% of the EU population fell by 24% from 1990 to 2015, while the carbon emissions from the most affluent 10% of EU citizens grew by 3%, and emissions from the wealthiest 1% – the super rich – grew by 5%. As work on the “polluter elite” shows, this problem is made worse by the political power and influence that these groups have over government policy, an issue that has once again come to the fore in the UK.