Superyachts, private jets and financial investments of 12 of the world’s wealthiest people are accountable for generating annual energy emissions equivalent to 2.1 million homes, according to a report by Oxfam and two US researchers.
The substantial carbon footprint comes from a dozen individuals, including Tesla and X owner Elon Musk, Amazon funder Jeff Bezos, Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich and Mexican investor Carlos Slim, said the report.
Private jets produce 5–14 times more pollution per passenger than commercial planes and 50 times more pollution than trains. (Photo: Jet Linx)
The group also include tech magnates like former Microsoft director Bill Gates, former Google director Larry Page and Dell Technologies founder Michael Dell. Other billionaires on the list include Google’s Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt, LVMH’s Bernard Arnault, Oracle’s Larry Ellison and businesswoman Laurene Powell Jobs.
According to the report, it is alleged that their investments and shareholdings produce almost 17 million tonnes of carbon dioxide and equivalent greenhouse gas emissions every year.
Oxfam collaborated with two researchers, Beatriz Barros and Richard Wilk, who used publicly available data to estimate total emissions from the billionaires’ luxury possessions and real estate. For instance, they analyzed dimensions of the billionaires’ superyachts to determine an approximate carbon footprint.
Bezos’ $500 million megayacht, the largest sailing yacht in the world as 127 meters long and constructed over three years. Based on this information, the researchers calculated that its carbon emissions amount to 7,154 tonnes per year.
“The emissions of the superyachts are way above anything else,” Wilk pointed out.
“They must have a crew, and they must 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 superyachts is significantly higher than other types of vessels. (Image: Oceanco)
The carbon footprint of each billionaire’s financial investments was estimated by their companies’ declarations on direct and indirect emissions.
The research team also examined a broader group of 125 billionaires and found that the average emissions from their investments were over a million times higher than those generated by 90% of global population.
Bill Gates’s spokesperson said that he has transitioned to sustainable transportation, such as using electric cars and purchasing sustainable aviation fuel. Also, the spokesperson said that since 2019, Gates began 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”.
“He will continue to invest billions of his own resources into clean energy and climate change innovations to lower greenhouse gas emissions and help make these technologies more affordable,” the spokesperson said.
Others named on the list have used some of their fortunes to establish foundations or declared climate commitments at their firms. Bezos initiated the $10 billion Earth Fund aimed at distributing grants focused on addressing climate and nature concerns.
Arnault’s LVMH says it “has made sustainable development a strategic priority since its founding”. Musk set up the XPRIZE Carbon Removal competition, offering $100 million to teams creating solutions combating climate change.