When I talk about climate justice, I often compare carbon footprints across countries. My go-to comparison is per capita emissions in Madagascar (0.16 tonnes) and Australia (16 tonnes), two countries that I have a connection to. The annual climate impact of an average Australian is a hundred times larger than a Malagasy citizen. Or to put it another way, each average Australian does as much damage to the climate as a hundred Malagasy people do.
Globally, it is rich countries that need to act first on climate change.
This is also true locally. The richest in society tend to have much larger carbon footprints. As the World Inequality Report highlights, the wealthiest 10% have far more carbon emissions to their name.
It’s really important then that reducing emissions starts with the richest. It’s the best way to make sure that climate change action is fair, and it will be targeting surplus consumption. For example, a frequent flyer levy would be a fairer way to tackle aviation emissions, as it would affect those who fly most. People who fly once or twice a year would scarcely notice the difference, while wealthier air passengers who fly regularly would feel the pinch and hopefully reduce the number of flights they take.
In wealthier countries, even those on relatively low incomes still have have carbon footprints that are larger than a global fair share. So climate action doesn’t stop with the rich. It will take all of us, everywhere. But it can certainly start there.