Ending extreme poverty has a negligible impact on global greenhouse gas emissions

Philip Wollburg*, Stephane Hallegatte*, Daniel Gerszon Mahler*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Growing consumption is both necessary to end extreme poverty 1and one of the main drivers of greenhouse gas emissions 2, creating a potential tension between alleviating poverty and limiting global warming. Most poverty reduction has historically occurred because of economic growth 3–6, which means that reducing poverty entails increasing not only the consumption of people living in poverty but also the consumption of people with a higher income. Here we estimate the emissions associated with the economic growth needed to alleviate extreme poverty using the international poverty line of US $2.15 per day (ref. 7). Even with historical energy- and carbon-intensity patterns, the global emissions increase associated with alleviating extreme poverty is modest, at 2.37 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year or 4.9% of 2019 global emissions. Lower inequality, higher energy efficiency and decarbonization of energy can ease this tension further: assuming the best historical performance, the emissions for poverty alleviation in 2050 will be reduced by 90%. More ambitious poverty lines require more economic growth in more countries, which leads to notably higher emissions. The challenge to align the development and climate objectives of the world is not in reconciling extreme poverty alleviation with climate objectives but in providing sustainable middle-income standards of living.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)982-986
Number of pages5
JournalNature
Volume623
Issue number7989
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2023

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