WWF: 'EU currently uses two times more than its ecosystems can renew'

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Europe's ecological footprint puts too much pressure on the natural world
Europe's ecological footprint puts too much pressure on the natural world
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The EU is being called to spend a quarter of its entire budget fighting climate change.

The UK has just gone its first week since the time of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) without generating energy from coal.

Little by little, political steps are being taken on a grand scale to fight climate change, something climate scientists and activists have been calling for for decades.

They're being pushed into it for many reasons — the mounting costs of climate change effects, mass demonstrations, and a host of recent studies that have painted a picture of a natural world in crisis.

The UN warned in a study just last week that over a million species are in danger of extinction, as a direct result of humans.

And this morning, the World Wildlife Fund has released a new report on Europe's ecological footprint. That footprint shows how many resources humans use, versus how much nature can provide. The report measured Europe's footprint in six areas:

  • The forest products we consume
  • The amount of land we us for crops
  • The impact of grazing animals
  • The land used for human infrastructure
  • How much carbon we emit
  • And the effect of our fishing on the oceans

And the WWF's conclusion is that it all adds up to far too much demand on nature's resources.

Overshoot Day

The report details what's called 'World Overshoot Day' — that's a date by which humanity has already used up more resources than nature can regenerate within that year. In 2018, that date was August 1st. They're also putting the spotlight on Europe by saying if the entire world consumed like Europeans, that Overshoot day would be much earlier, on May 10th.

Ester Asin, the Director of the World Wildlife Fund's European Policy office, explained to Good Morning Europe on Thursday that all our consumption is creating a debt with the natural world, and warned of dire consequences if humanity continues to overdraw that account.

"The consequences are very serious for us," said Asin.

"It means that the Earth, the natural resources are not able to renew at the speed we are using them. So basically, we are creating a debt. This debt is threatening nature, but it is also threatening us, because we depend on nature for food, fish, for the air that we breathe. So we are living on credit I would say, and for Europe it's even sooner than for the rest of the world. If everyone on the planet lived as the average of an EU resident, actually we would need 2.8 planets just to respond to all of our demand."

As it stands now, we need 1.7 planets for human consumption to be sustainable, meaning that even with the vast differences between lifestyles and consumption across the globe, we're still over-consuming. And of course humanity is not yet moving towards a more sustainable way of life.

"We are also raising of course awareness about the way we consume here in Europe," said Asin.

"The way we move, we design and we build things. I think it's important to note that European demands is also driving depletion of nature beyond our borders. So our demand for commodities like soil, palm oil, and others is driving huge deforestation for instance in Brazil- so actually we are eating up the biocapacity and the reserves of Brazil. So it's a call for a shift towards more sustainable consumption, more sustainable food systems. It is also a wake up call, to have more ambitious climate policies. I was listening very carefully as some of the member states are calling now to become climate neutral by 2050. For us, that's too late. We are calling all EU member states to become climate neutral by 2040. And last but not least, it's also a call for everyone to protect and preserve nature, on land and in the sea. Because as I said before, we depend on nature for our own survival."

The impact stretches far beyond the man-made borders of the European Union. People in developed countries consume significantly more, which has a detrimental impact on far-away places.

"It's an issue of justice as well," explained Asin.

"Because the EU accounts for only seven per cent of the world's total population, and yet we are eating up 20 per cent of the Earth's natural ecosystems. So it's an issue of fairness as well towards the rest of the world. We are using more resources than many other parts of the world, only China and the US are before the EU. But it's also a matter of, we've benefited a lot from this development, and we've polluted a lot, so now it's fair to compensate for that and to have higher ambitions."