Average Brit will emit more by 12 January than residents of seven African countries do in a year

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The average Brit will emit more carbon in first two weeks of 2020 than the citizens of seven African nations emit in an entire year, Oxfam revealed today as it called on the UK government to lead the way in addressing the staggering injustice at the heart of the climate emergency.

Researchers found that someone in the UK will take just five days to emit the same carbon as someone in Rwanda does in an entire year. By 12 January, the average Brit’s emissions will have overtaken the annual per capita emissions of a further six African countries: Malawi, Ethiopia, Uganda, Madagascar, Guinea and Burkina Faso.

Oxfam called on the Prime Minister to grasp the opportunity of hosting this year’s UN Climate Summit by taking bold action to kickstart negotiations and ensure that public concern about climate change is translated into action. Polling carried out by YouGov for Oxfam shows that almost two-thirds (61%) of people in Britain want the Government to do more to address the climate emergency and most are willing to act to reduce their own carbon footprint.

The poll found that a clear majority of Britons (55%) say they worry about the impact of climate change and as many as 79% of people said they were likely to take one of a number of actions to reduce their carbon footprint.

Their responses ranged from 79% of people who said they were likely to recycle more, down to 38% of people who were likely to change their diet, such as by eating less meat or dairy products. More than two-thirds (68%) said they were likely to use energy efficient products or utility providers, while almost half said they were likely to limit their air travel (49%) or to buy ethically-made or second-hand products (49%).

Danny Sriskandarajah, Oxfam GB Chief Executive, said: “The sheer scale of global inequality when it comes to carbon emissions is staggering.

“It’s a shock to realise that in just a few days our high-carbon lifestyles here in the UK produce the same emissions as the annual footprint of people in some poor countries – but the encouraging thing is the willingness of the British public to take action. Together, our small actions can have a huge collective impact in protecting people and the planet.

“Just as large numbers of the public are resolving to reduce their carbon footprint, we need a bold New Year’s resolution from the Prime Minister to get us on track to net-zero emissions much earlier than the current 2050 deadline. As the UK Government gets ready to host global climate talks later this year, it needs to show that it is deadly serious about leading the fight against climate change.”

Following on from a disappointing outcome at the COP25 climate summit in Madrid, the UK government has a diplomatic mountain to climb ahead of hosting the next summit in Glasgow at the end of 2020 meaning. Bold action from the UK could be crucial in breaking the diplomatic deadlock.

The scale of public appetite for change was also shown last year when 62,000 people pledged not to buy new clothes for 30 days supporting Oxfam’s #SecondhandSeptember.

In the two weeks since the General Election, more than 7,800 people signed a letter asking Prime Minister Boris Johnson to take immediate action to get the UK on track for net-zero emissions much earlier than the current 2050 deadline. The letter calls on the government to do this without buying carbon offsets from other countries, and to take responsibility for the nation’s entire carbon footprint, including emissions from the food and products we import from outside UK borders. It also says that richer countries including the UK should ensure they meet their pledge of $100 billion in annual climate finance by this year, of which $50 billion should be to help the world’s very poorest people adapt.


Notes to editors:

The statistics in this press release are based on the per capita carbon emissions from various countries in 2017, the last year for which data on emissions from consumption is available. See a note on the methodology here: https://oxfam.box.com/s/qx9npbxljbwmd94uz2uwx049nwwigc8l

Some of the results are as follows:

Country, followed by Annual per capita carbon emissions (tonnes of CO2 per person) and the number of days it would take the average Brit to overtake the annual emissions of country in question

Rwanda 0.0911535 days (5 January)

Malawi 0.1932632789 days (9 January)

Ethiopia 0.1982914959 days (9 January)

Uganda 0.202263549 days (9 January)

Madagascar 0.222044839 days (9 January)

Guinea 0.25358153611 days (11 January)

Burkina Faso 0.2589818911 days (11 January)

Tanzania 0.37492449516 days (16 January)

Nigeria 0.4945428621 days (21 January)

Cameroon 0.517408721 days (21 January)

India 1.68799375 days (15 March)

Global average4.7207 days (25 July)

UK8.339860256365 days (31 December)

Oxfam commissioned an online poll of 1,623 adults in Britain from YouGov. The polling was carried out on 22 and 23 December 2019.

Oxfam is asking people to sign an open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling for immediate action on the climate emergency: https://actions.oxfam.org/great-britain/climate-emergency/letter/

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