The average British person will have emitted more carbon dioxide in the first two weeks of this year than a citizen of any one of seven African nations does in an entire year.
This is the key finding of an Oxfam project, published on Sunday, which discovered that someone in the UK will take just five days to emit the same carbon as someone in Rwanda does in a year.
And by next Sunday, 12 January, the average Briton’s emissions will have overtaken the annual per capita emissions of a further six African countries: Madagascar, Malawi, Ethiopia, Uganda, Guinea and Burkina Faso.
The study revealed that annual emissions of carbon dioxide, per head of population, is 0.09 tonnes in Rwanda, 0.19 in Malawi and 0.25 in Burkina Faso. Further up the scale, it was found that Nigeria emits 0.49 tonnes of carbon per person every year while in India the figure is 1.68. These figures compare with a global average of 4.7 tonnes per person per year. In Britain the figure is 8.3.
Danny Sriskandarajah, the chief executive of Oxfam GB, described the scale of global inequality revealed by the study as 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. However, the encouraging thing is the willingness of the British public to take action.”
This view is supported by the results of a YouGov poll, carried out for Oxfam and also published on Sunday. It shows that 61% of people in Britain want the government to do more to address the climate emergency. Most respondents also say they would be willing to act to reduce their own carbon footprints.
The poll found that 55% of Britons say they worry about the impact of global heating and as many as 79% said they were likely to take one of a number of actions to reduce their carbon footprint.
Responses ranged from 79% of people who said they were likely to recycle more, down to 38% who were likely to change their diet, such as by eating less meat or dairy. More than two-thirds (68%) said they were likely to use energy-efficient products or utility providers, and almost half to limit their air travel (49%) or buy ethically made or second-hand products (49%).
“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,” added Sriskandarajah. “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.”