July 28, 2021

The billionaires who emit the most CO2 are not the richest

While billionaires emit 1,300 times more CO2 than an average French person, those who own a yacht are by far the most emitting. And the first three fortunes of the planet do not have any and are more relatively sober for billionaires.

Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk aren’t the most CO2 emitting people on the planet. The two billionaires at the top of the world hierarchy of great fortunes, with more than 180 billion dollars each, are even rather “sober” compared to other billionaires.

8,190 tonnes of CO0 emitted on average per year

A relative impact, however, as revealed The Conversation who calculated the emissions of these great fortunes in tonnes of CO2 equivalent. The top 20 billionaires each emitted an average of 8,190 tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2018. This represents 1,300 times the average emissions of a French person (6.3 tonnes in 2019).

The site has selected in the Forbes ranking the billionaires whose activity is relatively well documented to measure their carbon footprint. He combed through 82 databases of public data registers to establish the possessions (cars, jets, yachts, homes …) as well as the movements of these billionaires to establish his ranking of the largest emitters. However, this estimate does not take the “embodied carbon” (emissions from the production chain of owned goods), nor the emissions from companies owned by these large fortunes (emissions from Tesla and Amazon are not counted). .

The result reveals that it is the Russian Roman Abramovich who is by far the single person with the biggest CO2 emitter in the world. The owner of the Chelsea football club, which made his fortune in the oil and gas trading, emitted at least 33,859 tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2018. The 101st world fortune with an estimated heritage of 19.6 billion dollars through Bloomberg emits on average 15 times more CO2 than Jeff Bezos (2,224 tonnes of CO2 equivalent) and 16 times more than Elon Musk (2,084 tonnes of CO2 equivalent).

Emissions of the greatest fortunes on the planet in tonnes of C02 equivalent for the year 2018.
Emissions of the greatest fortunes on the planet in tonnes of CO2 equivalent for the year 2018. © The Conversation

Because what this estimate reveals is the importance of yachts in the carbon footprint of large fortunes. The annual use of his 162.5-meter superyacht Eclipse (the second largest in the world) alone accounts for two-thirds of the Russian billionaire’s carbon footprint. He has just bought a new one to replace the one he uses today. Currently under construction, the Solaris, which costs $ 600 million, is a little shorter than the Eclipse (140 meters) but its carbon footprint will remain colossal.

Because yachts are by far the assets that emit the most CO2 with their permanent staff, their submarines, their helicopters, their swimming pools and their weights to be moved (11,000 tonnes and eight floors for the new Abramovich yacht). But the Russian also has a custom-designed Boeing 767, a Gulfstream jet, two helicopters, many homes (in London, Cap d’Antibes, Israel, Saint-Barth …).

Bernard Arnault’s yacht

Frenchman Bernard Arnault is also a big emitter of CO2. The fourth fortune on the planet ($ 117 billion according to Bloomberg) is also fourth in this ranking with 10,421 tonnes of CO2 equivalent emitted over a year. The boss of LVMH also owns his superyacht, the Symphony, 101.5 meters long. The boat also represents 86% of the emissions of the French billionaire.

Yachts account for the bulk of the CO2 emissions of these billionaires. It weighs for example 90% of the emissions of the former music producer David Geffen, more than three quarters of those of the founder of Oracle Larry Ellison or even more than 70% of those of Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google. .

By comparison, the three biggest fortunes in the world look much more sober. Jeff Bezos’ and Elon Musk’s emissions are mainly due to their travels around the world, which represent more than 90% of their emissions. The two do not own a yacht, nor a fleet of jets. The founder of Tesla doesn’t even own any real estate anymore.

Bill Gates for his part has a larger footprint estimated at 7,500 tonnes of CO2 equivalent, three more than those of Bezos and Musk, but this is mainly due to his travels around the world, motivated in part by his philanthropic activities.

Frédéric Bianchi