Richest 10% create bigger ecological footprint

June 24, 2008

TORONTO – The richest 10 percent of Canadians create a bigger ecological footprint – a whopping 66 percent higher – than the average Canadian household, says a new study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

The study, Size Matters: Canada’s Ecological Footprint, By Income, is the first Canadian study to link national income and consumption patterns with global warming.

“When we look at where the environmental impact of human activity comes from, we see that size really does matter,” says Hugh Mackenzie, CCPA research associate. “Higher-income Canadians create a much bigger footprint than poorer Canadians.”

Among the study’s findings:

  • The richest 10% of Canadian households create an ecological footprint of 12.4 hectares per capita – nearly two-and-a-half times that of the poorest 10%.
  • While the size of an individual’s ecological footprint increases as household income increases, the real jump is at that top 10% level. When it comes to environmental impact, it really is a case of the rich and the rest of us.
  • The bottom 60% of Canadian households’ ecological footprint is below the national average but even the lowest-income Canadians create an ecological footprint that is several times the average for those in poorer nations.

“All Canadians share responsibility for global warming,” says co-author Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence. “But wealthier Canadians are leaving behind a disproportionately larger footprint – and should be expected to make a disproportionate contribution to its reduction.”

Mackenzie says the study contains lessons for policy makers: “Clearly ecological impact is stongly related to income. Greenhouse gas emissions policies should reflect that reality or risk being less effective and unfair to low- and middle-class Canadians.”


Size Matters: Canada’s Ecological Footprint, By Income is available from the CCPA web site at

For information, please contact Trish Hennessy at (416) 263-9896.