The richer, the more CO2 emissions
Low-income families emit up to four times less CO2 than the wealthiest families in Belgium. This is what a study by the University of Antwerp shows. The study, commissioned by the federal government, is based on a survey of more than 6.000 households in 2014, which maps out the Belgian’s spending pattern in detail.
Based on this, it was calculated how much a household emits per year, precisely to know whether new CO2 taxes will affect lower incomes more than higher salaries.
Four times less CO2
If you look at the monthly expenses, 10% of the poorest Belgians emit up to four times less CO2 than the 10% richest. On the other hand, per euro spent, lower incomes have higher emissions. This is because they spend more money on basic needs, such as heating, electricity, and food. The first two categories, in particular, are responsible for high emissions.
For the poor, approximately half of the CO2 emissions come from their energy consumption. The richer, the more CO2 emissions there are from energy consumption. In the transport category, Belgians with a limited budget also score rather low: they often do not have a car. In middle-income households, CO2 emissions are rising rapidly.
Poor households could be hit harder
The study also looks at what a fair climate tax could look like. “If it is carried out ill-considered, these poorer households could be hit harder,” says researcher Josefine Vanhille. Basic needs are in danger of becoming more expensive, and that’s where the lion’s share of the budget of people with low incomes goes to.
What’s more, wealthier families have more margins to respond to a possible CO2 tax. They have the financial room to better insulate their homes or to install solar panels. Conversely, someone with a limited budget cannot easily buy an electric car.
Reduce the income gap
The researchers advise the government, when introducing a CO2 tax, to return part of the tax revenue to those who need it most. “In this way, their income can be increased,” says Vanhille. “Another option is to use the money for large-scale renovation and insulation of social housing.”
More fundamentally, the researchers argue in favor of reducing the income gap. “Social policy and climate policy cannot be separated,” Vanhille concludes. “Foreign examples show that it is possible.”