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Inequality of carbon emissions across income and age in Spain

Stefan Drews, Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona) and Universidad de Málaga; Théo Konc, Technical University of Berlin and Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research (PIK)
Project selected in the “Social Reality of Young People” Flash Call

Climate change is linked to several problems, such as, for example, economic inequality. This article discusses two types of inequalities in the transition to a low-carbon society. It starts with evidence showing that the top 1% of carbon emitters in Spain have annual carbon footprints that are approximately 7 times higher than that of the average person and 27 times higher than the bottom 10% of people. The main drivers of unequal carbon footprints are differences in income and wealth. Moreover, older people tend to have slightly higher carbon footprints than younger adults. With changing demographics and persistent economic inequalities between generations, the sum total of emissions from the group of older people will become even larger in absolute terms over time.
Key points
  • 1
       Carbon footprints vary significantly among individuals.
  • 2
       The top 1% of carbon emitters have a carbon footprint which is 7 times larger than the average emitter.
  • 3
       Income and wealth are the main drivers of differences in footprints.
  • 4
       Wealth taxation could play a role in the green fiscal reform.
  • 5
       The ageing population should be considered in climate change policy.
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