November 19, 2022
Written by

Measuring the Carbon Content of Wealth Evidence from France and Germany

This paper estimates the distribution of annual wealth-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in France and Germany, using a novel method to combine newly released air emission accounts, national accounts, and survey data on wealth. In our proposed framework, wealth holders are responsible for the emissions that occur in production processes they implicitly control. Our findings suggest that wealth-related emissions are at least as much concentrated at the very top than wealth itself, possibly even more. In addition, wealth-related emissions appear to be more even more concentrated in Germany than in France. Large emissions inequalities persist even when individuals are attributed a combination of direct and indirect GHG emissions. Wealth-related emissions of the average top 10% wealth holder exceed total emissions (including direct and indirect emissions from consumption) of the average individual in the bottom 50% in France and Germany. All emissions considered, the life of the average top 10% wealth holder appears to be 3-5 times more carbon-intensive than the average individual in the bottom 50%. Finally, we discuss the paper’s findings implications for a per-ton tax on the carbon content of wealth.


  • Yannic Rehm: Paris School of Economics,
  • Lucas Chancel: Paris School of Economics, Sciences Po,

Media Contact