Top 1% of EU households have carbon footprints 22 times larger than climate targets allow
(The Conversation, 28 Aug 2020) To keep global warming below 1.5°C, we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 2.5 tonnes of CO₂ per person per year by 2030. But we recently analysed more than 275,000 household budget surveys from 26 countries for an academic study, and we found that only about 5% of EU households live within these limits.
Scientists aren’t certain exactly how much fossil fuel we can use and still remain below 1.5°C – that is, how big the world’s remaining carbon budget is – but it’s clear the vast majority of EU citizens are using far more than their fair share. In the EU, the average carbon footprint is equivalent to about eight tonnes of CO₂ per person, which must fall by about a third over the next decade.
But some people place even greater pressure on the environment. Households in the top 1% of polluters in the EU have carbon footprints that are 22 times larger than the safe limit of 2.5 tonnes. On average, people in this group emit greenhouse gases equivalent to 55 tonnes of CO₂ per person per year.