These 12 billionaires have same carbon footprint ‘as 2 million homes’

Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos made the list

Amelia Neath,Katie Hawkinson
Wednesday 22 November 2023 18:45 GMT
Jeff Bezos buys $500M superyacht

Superyachts, private jets, mansions and financial investments of 12 of the world’s wealthiest people are responsible for producing annual energy emissions comparable to 2.1 million homes, it has been claimed in a new report.

The gargantuan carbon footprint comes from a dozen individuals including Tesla and X owner Elon Musk, Amazon tycoon Jeff Bezos, Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich and Mexican investor Carlos Slim, according to reports by Oxfam and two US researchers, first reported by The Guardian.

The group also includes tech magnates such as former Microsoft director Bill Gates, former Google director Larry Page and founder of Dell Technologies, Michael Dell.

Other billionaires that made the list include Google’s Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt, LVMH’s Bernard Arnault, Oracle’s Larry Ellison and businesswoman Laurene Powell Jobs.

It is alleged that their investments and shareholdings produce almost 17 million tonnes of carbon dioxide and equivalent greenhouse gas emissions each year. That’s the same as 4.6 coal power plants produce annually, the outlet claimed.

Oxfam collaborated with two researchers, Beatriz Barros and Richard Wilk, who used publicly-available data to estimate overall emissions of the billionaires’ luxury possessions and real estate.

They analysed dimensions of the billionaires’ superyachts, for example, to determine an approximate carbon footprint.

Mr Bezos’ $500m megayacht, the largest sailing yacht in the world, is 127 meters long and took three years to build. Based on this data, the researchers calculated that its carbon emissions amount to 7,154 tonnes a year, The Guardian said.

“The emissions of the superyachts are way above anything else,” Mr Wilk told the outlet.

“They have to have a crew, and they have to be constantly maintained even when they are docked. Then you have the helicopters onboard, the jetskis, the high energy-using luxury items like pools, hot tubs, private submarines and tenders; all of these require power, the air conditioning, the sophisticated electronic items. It is like having a hotel running on the water all the time.”

The carbon footprint of each billionaire’s financial investments was estimated by their companies’ declarations on direct and indirect emissions.

The researchers also looked at a broader pool of 125 billionaires and found that the average emissions from their investments were more than a million times higher than those created by 90 per cent of humanity.

Most of the billionaires named in the report did not immediately respond to The Independent’s request for comment. Spokespeople for Mr Schmidt and Mr Dell declined to comment. Roman Abramovich could not be contacted.

A spokesperson for Mr Gates told The Independent that he has switched to sustainable forms of transportation, such as using electric cars and buying sustainable aviation fuel.

The spokesperson also said that since 2019, Mr Gates had started the process of selling his direct holdings in oil and gas companies “because he didn’t want to profit from those as the world transitions to clean energy”.

“Bill will continue to invest billions of his own resources into clean energy and climate change innovations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help make these technologies more affordable,” the spokesperson wrote, in an email. “Additionally, any returns on these investments will go back into fighting climate change and supporting the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help as many people as possible around the world.”

Others named on the list have used some of their vast fortunes to set up foundations or announced climate commitments at their companies.

Mr Bezos established the Earth Fund, a $10bn fund that will be distributed as grants “to address climate and nature”.

Mr Arnault’s company, LVMH, says it “has made sustainable development a strategic priority since its founding”.

Mr Musk set up the XPRIZE Carbon Removal - $100m competition in which teams design solutions to fight climate change.

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