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Investments of 125 billionaires have the same carbon footprint as France, study finds

Carbon dioxide and other pollutants billows from a stack at PacifiCorp's coal-fired Naughton Power Plant, near where Bill Gates company, TerraPower plans to build an advanced, nontraditional nuclear reactor, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, in Kemmerer, Wyo.
Natalie Behring
/
AP
Carbon dioxide and other pollutants billows from a stack at PacifiCorp's coal-fired Naughton Power Plant, near where Bill Gates company, TerraPower plans to build an advanced, nontraditional nuclear reactor, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, in Kemmerer, Wyo.

Some of the world's richest billionaires each emit about 3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide on average per year, more than 1 million times the amount emitted by 90% of people, according to a new study.

The sample consisted of 125 billionaire with investments in 183 corporations, and who have a combined corporate equity value of $2.4 trillion. About 50 to 70% of their emissions stem from their investments.

Collectively, their annual carbon dioxide emissions total about 393 million metric tons, which is about the same annual carbon footprint of France with its population of 67 million people, according to the report by Oxfam, a charity collective that aims to reduce poverty.

"Extreme inequality and wealth concentration undermine the ability of humanity to stop climate breakdown," the organization said. "Very rich people emit huge and unsustainable amounts of carbon and have an outsized influence over our economy."

The average carbon footprint for 90% of people is about 2.8 metric tons per year, according to the study.

About 24% of the billionaires' investments were in the consumer discretionary sector, which includes automobiles, luxury goods and hospitality services. About 18% were in consumer staples, which includes food, beverages and household goods. Eleven percent were in finance, 7% were in energy and 7% were in materials. One business is a renewable energy corporation.

Researchers at Oxfam began their study with a list of the richest 220 people in the world using data from Bloomberg, but excluded many of them because they did not report their carbon output to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, which provides global standards to calculate corporate greenhouse gas emissions.

Of the 183 businesses that were represented, Oxfam said 29% have set targets to reduce their emissions, while 19% have committed to net zero emissions, which is when someone removes as much greenhouse gases as they emit.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ayana Archie
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