Climate change is inextricably linked to economic inequality: it is a crisis that is driven by the greenhouse gas emissions of the 'haves' that hits the 'have-nots' the hardest.

A briefing from Oxfam published in December 2015 demonstrates the extent of global carbon inequality by estimating and comparing the lifestyle consumption emissions of rich and poor citizens in different countries.

They estimate that the poorest half of the global population – around 3.5 billion people – are responsible for only around 10% of total global emissions attributed to individual consumption yet live overwhelmingly in the countries most vulnerable to climate change.

Around 50% of these emissions meanwhile can be attributed to the richest 10% of people around the world, who have average carbon footprints 11 times as high as the poorest half of the population, and 60 times as high as the poorest 10%.

The average footprint of the richest 1% of people globally could be 175 times that of the poorest 10%.

Oxfam's new data analysis, which attributes estimated total lifestyle consumption emissions for different countries to the varying income groups within them , not only shows the extreme nature of global carbon inequality, but also helps bust some of the myths that have circulated around the UN climate talks for years about who is driving climate change.

Comparing the average lifestyle consumption footprints of richer and poorer citizens in a range of countries helps show that while some 'emerging economies' like China, India, Brazil and South Africa have high and rapidly rising emissions, the lifestyle consumption emissions of even their richest citizens remain some way behind that of their counterparts in rich OECD countries, even though this is changing and will continue to do so without urgent climate action.

The lifestyle emissions of the hundreds of millions of their poorest citizens, meanwhile, remain significantly lower than even the poorest people in the OECD countries.

While the richest citizens can and should contribute as individuals to cutting their own emissions through lifestyle changes, wherever they live, they cannot solve the climate crisis through voluntary action alone. Their choices are often constrained by the decisions of their governments in all sorts of areas, from energy to transport policy.

Increasingly members of the richest 10% are experiencing the impacts of climate change themselves, and are mobilizing to demand action from their governments.

The only beneficiaries of inadequate climate action are a much smaller elite with vested interests in the continuation of a high carbon and deeply unequal global economy. Between the Copenhagen and Paris climate conferences, the number of billionaires on the Forbes list with interests in fossil fuel activities rose from 54 in 2010 to 88 in 2015, while the size of their combined personal fortunes expanded by around 50% from over $200bn to more than $300bn. Governments need to stand up to their influence, and stand up for their citizens – the poorest, lowest emitting and most vulnerable among them first and foremost.