Today, the EU has used up nature’s budget for the year

(EurActiv, 10 May 2019) Did you think Europe was doing relatively well, environmentally speaking? EU Overshoot Day is your reality check. The EU elections and the response of EU leaders will be crucial to turn the tide, writes Ester Asin.

Ester Asin is the director of the WWF’s European Policy Office.

The concept of Earth Overshoot Day is not new: it describes the day on which humanity has depleted as many natural resources as the Earth can reproduce in an entire year. After that date (1 August in 2018), humans are building up an ecological deficit, or living in ‘overshoot’. Basically, this means that we are overspending the Earth’s natural capital, thereby creating more carbon emissions than the planet can absorb, destroying more forests and depleting more fishing grounds than nature can regenerate, eroding soils, and wiping out biodiversity.

Just earlier this week, the world’s leading scientists have warned that human activities are causing a sixth mass extinction, that we’re losing natural ecosystems at an unprecedented rate, and that this bears massive risks for humanity. We can no longer ignore this evidence, and it is clear that the global community must act urgently to avert ecological collapse.

But what about Europe? Our environmental standards are relatively high, right? We’re a leader on climate action, more aware of sustainable lifestyles than other regions, and looking after the nature we have left on our continent? I hate to disappoint.

The new report published by WWF together with Global Footprint Network shows that in fact, the EU is among the worst offenders when it comes to overuse of natural resources. EU Overshoot Day this year occurs already today – on 10 May.

This means that, if everybody on Earth lived, consumed, and polluted like EU citizens, we would now start running up a deficit in terms of the natural resources we use – a mere 129 days into the year! With just 7% of the world’s population, we are using almost 20% of its ‘biocapacity’, and 2.8 planets would be needed to sustain our lifestyle. Clearly, there is something seriously wrong here.

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EurActiv, 10 May 2019: Today, the EU has used up nature’s budget for the year