Impacts of poverty alleviation on national and global carbon emissions

Benedikt Bruckner, Klaus Hubacek*, Yuli Shan*, Honglin Zhong, Kuishuang Feng

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Wealth and income are disproportionately distributed among the global population. This has direct consequences on consumption patterns and consumption-based carbon footprints, resulting in carbon inequality. Due to persistent inequality, millions of people still live in poverty today. On the basis of global expenditure data, we compute country- and expenditure-specific per capita carbon footprints with unprecedented details. We show that they can reach several hundred tons of CO 2 per year, while the majority of people living below poverty lines have yearly carbon footprints of less than 1 tCO 2. Reaching targets under United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 1, lifting more than one billion people out of poverty, leads to only small relative increases in global carbon emissions of 1.6–2.1% or less. Nevertheless, carbon emissions in low- and lower-middle-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa can more than double as an effect of poverty alleviation. To ensure global progress on poverty alleviation without overshooting climate targets, high-emitting countries need to reduce their emissions substantially.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)311-320
Number of pages10
JournalNature Sustainability
Issue number4
Early online date14 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank O. Dupriez for providing the raw dataset of the WBCD. This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (72174111, H.Z.), the Shandong Natural Science Foundation of China (ZR2021MG013, H.Z.) and the Major Program of National Social Science Foundation of China (no. 21ZDA065, H.Z.).
Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Food Science
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Urban Studies


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