CSE report for JRF points to climate change injustice

Social patterns behind UK carbon emissions revealed

24 November 2011

People who emit the least carbon in the UK are most likely to suffer from the consequences of climate change. Two new reports, published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), show for the first time who emits the most carbon and identifies who and where is most vulnerable to climate change in the UK.

The first of these reports was written by CSE. The distribution of UK household CO2 emissions: Interim report reveals distinct social patterns in the way that emissions vary across UK households.

It shows that people in the 45–55 age group emit the most carbon, 50% more than that the under-25s. It also shows that wealthier households have the highest overall emissions, with the top 10% of earners emitting more than twice as much carbon as the bottom 10%.

Joshua Thumim of the Centre for Sustainable Energy, who is leading the research team, said: “This work confirms what we have long suspected – there is a direct and significant relationship between household income and carbon emissions. Importantly this relationship is even stronger when flying and driving are taken into account. The challenge is to use this information to design fairer climate change policies”.

Travel accounts for much of this variation, with the top 10% of earners emitting five times as much carbon from flying than the bottom ten per cent, and three times as much from driving. Not surprisingly car ownership is itself associated with increased emissions: multi-car households have on average three times the emissions of those with no car.

The differences, though still significant, are smaller for household fuel use, with the top ten per cent of earners emitting 45% more than the bottom 10%.

You can download the report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation website. This report is one output of a wider project that CSE is undertaking for JRF which seeks to understand the social impacts of UK climate policies.

Photo by OiMax reproduced under creative commons

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