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World's Richest 10 Percent Responsible For About Half Of Carbon Emissions

Their carbon footprint is 60 times greater than that of the poorest 10 percent, according to a new report.

The richest 10 percent of people in the world are responsible for approximately half of the world's carbon emissions, according to a new report released by Oxfam on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the poorest half of the population is responsible for just 10 percent of carbon emissions attributable to individual consumption, the report found. The richest 10 percent of the world's population has a carbon footprint 60 times greater than that of the poorest 10 percent, according to the analysis.

The report highlighting the unequal economic distribution of climate pollution comes as world leaders gather in Paris to try and reach an agreement to reduce greenhouse emissions and limit the effects of climate change. One challenge in the talks will be reaching an agreement with countries like India, which says it needs to burn carbon in order to further economic development for its citizens.

In October, India, the third-largest carbon polluter in the world behind China and the United States, released a plan to curb emissions by focusing on alternative energy sources, but stopped short of announcing a cap for carbon emissions. In an interview with The New York Times last year, India's environment minister Prakash Javadekar said that the country's emissions would continue to rise as the country worked on getting citizens out of poverty.

"Twenty percent of our population doesn’t have access to electricity, and that’s our top priority. We will grow faster, and our emissions will rise," he said.

The Oxfam report noted that "average lifestyle consumption footprints" of both the richest and poorest citizens in countries like India, China, Brazil and South Africa were smaller than their richer counterparts in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. 

In India, for example, Oxfam estimated that the poorest 50 percent of citizens emit per capita one-twentieth the emissions of the poorest 50 percent of citizens in the United States. The top 10 percent of the richest Indian citizens emit per capita a quarter of what the poorest 50 percent of American citizens emit.

"Paris must be the start of building a more human economy for all -- not just for the 'haves', the richest and highest emitters, but also the 'have-nots,' the poorest people who are the least responsible for and most vulnerable to climate change," Tim Gore, Oxfam's head of food and climate policy, said in a statement.

The world's poor may be small contributors to climate change, but are significantly impacted by it. According to a recent report by the World Bank, an additional 100 million people could be pushed back into poverty by 2030 because of climate change. Changing temperatures could also lead to an increase in the price of food and incidence of malaria, which would also significantly impact the world's poor.  So far countries have been unable to reach an agreement that would limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius in coming decades, which would still affect the planet, but scientists have described as a "best case scenario."

"While Paris can only be part of the package of measures needed to confront the interlinked crises of economic inequality and climate change, it is vital that it strikes a blow for climate justice in the interests of the poorest, lowest emitting and most vulnerable people, wherever they live," the report says.

Read the full report here. 

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