If everybody in the world lived like EU residents, the world would have exhausted the Earth’s annual budget by May 10, which was the European Union’s Earth Overshoot Day 2019. Nature’s annual budget consists of food, fiber, timber, carbon absorption, and land to build infrastructure, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Central and Eastern Europe said.
Earth Overshoot Day, the date by which humanity has used as much ecological resources as the planet’s ecosystems can renew over the whole year, fell on August 1 in 2018. The date takes place earlier and earlier every year, in another sign the world is speeding down the unsustainable path.
According to the EU Overshoot Day – Living Beyond Nature’s Limits report by WWF and the Global Footprint Network, the EU’s impact on the planet’s resources is inequitable: the EU uses almost 20% of the Earth’s biocapacity although 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. This is well above the world’s average Ecological Footprint of approximately 1.7 planets.
The Ecological Footprint measures the amount of biologically productive land and sea area required to produce all the resources that a population consumes and to absorb its waste, taking every year’s technological advances into account. Competing demands for nature include food, fiber, timber, accommodation of roads and buildings, and sequestration of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning.
“The consequences of our ecological overshoot include global deforestation, biodiversity loss, collapse of fish stocks, water scarcity, soil erosion, air pollution, and climate change leading to more frequent extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, and wildfires. These threats in turn bring about tensions and conflicts, and exacerbate global inequalities,” WWF said.
The EU and its member states now have the opportunity to bring their Ecological Footprint in balance with the planet’s biological resources by setting the right priorities and implementing the right policies – such as fully protecting and restoring nature in Europe by 2030 and making the EU climate neutral by 2040, according to WWF.
Romania marks EU’s last Overshoot Day this year
The picture within the EU is not homogeneous. Data shows a wide range between different countries’ consumption patterns, although none of them stay within the planetary boundaries. Luxembourg is the first country in the EU to reach its Overshoot Day just 46 days into the year. Bulgaria, as another example, marks Overshoot Day 2019 on June 22.
In the EU, Romania comes last this year, marking Overshoot Day on July 12, 2019. The steep decline in Romania’s Ecological Footprint began in 1989, the same year as the Romanian Revolution. Many industrial and economic enterprises from the communist era were closed after 1989. Romania’s economy rapidly expanded in the early 2000s until the 2008 recession. These economic trends are reflected in Romania’s carbon footprint, which dominates its Ecological Footprint, the report reads.
Carbon footprint measures carbon emissions from fossil fuel burning and cement production
According to Global Footprint Network’s data, Romania is also one of only several countries in Europe with a biocapacity reserve – defined as “percentage that biocapacity exceeds ecological footprint” – of 1%. By contrast, Cyprus has Europe’s worst biocapacity deficit, of 1,300%.