People in Europe are snatching more than their fair share of the world’s resources, a report says today.
It says Europeans emit too much carbon, eat too much food, use large amounts of timber and occupy too much built space.
The report for the green group WWF and the Global Footprint Network says Europeans contribute disproportionately to depleting resources.
The UK government says it is leading the world in trying to reduce the impact of Europe on the planet.
But the report says that if everyone in the world had the same environmental impact as the average EU resident, 10 May would be the date by which humans would have used as much from nature as the planet can annually renew.
That’s why the groups name 10 May as EU Earth Overshoot Day. For the rest of the year, they say, Europeans will live by depleting the “natural capital” of the Earth.
This means more carbon emissions than the planet’s natural ecosystems can absorb; more plant life destroyed through deforestation than nature can regenerate; depleted fishing grounds; soil erosion and loss of species.
The report says the EU and its citizens are currently using twice as many resources than the EU’s own ecosystems are able to renew.
It adds that the EU uses almost 20% of the Earth’s “biocapacity”, even though it comprises only 7% of the world population.
In other words, 2.8 planets would be needed if everyone consumed at the rate of the average EU resident.
The report comes a day after EU leaders held a summit on the Future of Europe in Romania, and two weeks before the European Parliament elections.
It recommends urgent changes to fully protect and restore nature in Europe by 2030 and to cut EU carbon emissions almost completely by 2040.
The EU does aspire to better use of the world’s resources. It has a drive for a so-called “circular economy” in which resources are continually, re-used, re-purposed or recycled.
The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, outlined proposals at this week’s EU summit for the bloc to protect Nature better, improve farming practices and move towards net zero greenhouse gas emissions.
Eight countries including France supported the ambition of net zero by 2050. But observers at the summit in Romania say the plan failed to get the backing of other nations including – crucially – Germany.
The UK government is currently considering a proposal for net zero emissions.
A spokesperson said: “We want to leave our environment in a better state than we found it.
“Our 25-year Environment Plan outlines steps to achieve this ambition and the forthcoming Environment Bill will put environmental ambition and accountability at the heart of government.
“We share the Global Footprint Network’s ambition to push back Overshoot Day.”