Let’s hike taxes on the top 1% to help tackle their carbon emissions – Richard Burgon MP


“Instead of letting Bezos address COP26, he should be hit with a Wealth Tax to fund a global Green New Deal that invests in urgent action to fight climate change”

By Richard Burgon MP

The absurd sight of billionaire Jeff Bezos lecturing the world from the platform at the COP26 underlines the degree to which the world’s elites want to fight climate change with their business-as-usual approach.

It’s not just that Jeff Bezos flew in his private jet to COP26 and is funding a climate-damaging private space race. Nor is it that the $2bn that Bezos announced to fight climate change amounts to less than a week’s worth of his income. 

The real issue is that the Billionaire class that caused this climate crisis won’t solve it. We cannot fight climate change with the same broken model that caused it.

Climate change is the greatest ever failure of capitalism – a failure driven by capitalism’s endless focus on profits whatever the cost.

Climate change is the greatest threat we face. We can still stop the worst affects of the climate crisis, but we have a choice: we put the interests of billions of people first or allow the billionaires to continue doing harm to billions.

Instead of letting Bezos address COP26, he should be hit with a Wealth Tax to fund a global Green New Deal that invests in urgent action to fight climate change, creates millions of green jobs, and mitigates against the worst impacts of climate change.

We have been brought to the edge of a climate catastrophe by the wealthiest 1% of the world’s population. They alone account for twice as many emissions as the 3.1 billion people who make up the poorer half of the world’s population. 

The richest one percent were responsible for 15 percent of emissions over the past 25 years up to 2015 – while the poorest half of humanity accounted for just 7 percent.

The disproportionate role of the richest in driving the climate crisis is clear in Britain too. The richest 1% of British people are responsible for 11 times the amount of carbon emissions of someone in the poorest half, according to Oxfam. Their carbon footprint is six times the British national average.

As an Oxfam spokesperson explained last year when releasing their research, “The global carbon budget has been squandered to expand the consumption of the already rich, rather than to improve humanity.”

If we are to hit key climate targets, then we will need to tackle the high-polluting lifestyles of the wealthy elites that are fuelling the climate crisis.

We need widespread reform to our tax system to tackle the damaging over-consumption, frequent flying, and use of gas-guzzling vehicles by the very wealthiest people.

Everybody must play their part in driving down emissions. But to be a just transition, it’s only right that the very richest who have caused the greatest climate damage pay the greatest share.

That’s why this week I submitted an Amendment to the Budget calling for higher taxes on the top 1% to help tackle carbon emissions. My Amendment would have increased the taxes on those earning over £150,000 from 45% to 55%. It would have affected around 440,000 additional rate tax-payers – around 1.4% – of the 32.2m income taxpayers. 

My Amendment wasn’t picked for a vote this time – but we need to carry on demanding that the rich pay for the damage they have done.  That is a key step in driving down carbon emissions and achieving climate justice.

Richard Burgon speaks at the Labour Assembly fringe at Labour Party Conference 21. Photo: Labour Outlook Archive

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