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Environment

The World’s Wealthiest Consume 20 Times More Energy Than the World’s Poorest

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Although energy emissions are primarily driven by the wealthy, their effects will hit the world’s poor the hardest. The United Nations calls on countries to reduce emissions to mitigate climate change. You can join us in taking action on this and related issues here.

The wealthiest 10% of the world’s population consumes about 20 times as much energy as the poorest 10% of the world’s population, according to a study of 86 countries from researchers at Leeds University, BBC News reported.

However, energy consumption varies widely between and within countries.

The poorest 20% of the citizens in the UK consume over five times more energy per person than the poorest 84% of people in India, according to Leeds University. Furthermore, 20% of the UK’s population and 40% of Germany’s population are in the top 5% of energy consumers worldwide, compared to 2% of China’s population and 0.02% of India’s population.

As a result, the responsibility for emissions reductions is unevenly shared around the world.

“The transition to zero carbon energy will be made easier by reduction in demand, which means that top consumers will play an important role in lowering their excess energy consumption,” Dr. Anne Owen, professor at the School of Earth and Environment at Leeds University and co-author of the study, said.

The biggest source of inequality in energy consumption was in the transportation sector, with the top 10% of consumers using 187 times more vehicle fuel energy than the bottom 10%, the sutdy reported.

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This inequality ultimately affects climate policy.

“The climate issue is framed by us high emitters — the politicians, business people, journalists, academics,” Professor Kevin Anderson from the Tyndall Centre in Manchester told BBC News. “When we say there’s no appetite for higher taxes on flying, we mean WE don’t want to fly less.

“The same is true about our cars and the size [of] our homes. We have convinced ourselves that our lives are normal, yet the numbers tell a very different story,” he added.

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This inequality highlights a crucial problem of climate change. Although it’s primarily caused by the wealthy, climate change hits those living in poverty and vulnerable populations the hardest.

Climate change has forced the Pacific Island Nations to declare a Climate Crisis, is projected to displace hundreds of millions of people, and has cost the world hundreds of billions of dollars in natural disasters.