The cost of ecological “overspending” has led to increased deforestation, soil erosion, collapse of fisheries, biodiversity loss and CO2 build up in the atmosphere.
Reducing CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning by 50% would move Earth Overshoot Day back 93 days and contribute to SDG 7.
29 July 2019: In 2019, Earth Overshoot Day, the day that humanity uses up its allowance of natural resources such as water, soil and clean air for the entire year, fell on 29 July, according to the Global Footprint Network. This means that humanity is currently using nature 1.75 times faster than the Earth’s ecosystems can regenerate.
Earth Overshoot Day has crept up by two months over the past 20 years, with 2019’s date being the earliest since the world began to overshoot in the 1970s. The carbon footprint from burning fossil fuels is the fastest growing component of the global ecological footprint, accounting for 60% of the total. The cost of ecological “overspending” has led to increased deforestation, soil erosion, collapse of fisheries, biodiversity loss and carbon dioxide (CO2) build up in the atmosphere.
Each year, the Global Footprint Network calculates Earth Overshoot Day using Ecological Footprint accounting, which adds up society’s demand on nature, including for food, timber, fibers, fossil fuels, buildings, roads and other infrastructure. The Network’s #MoveTheDate campaign looks at what is required to move Earth Overshoot Day back, and notes that moving it back by five days each year would enable the world to reach “one-planet compatibility” before 2050.
Mathis Wackernagel, co-inventor of Ecological Footprint accounting and Global Footprint Network founder, said overshoot must be temporary, and humanity has to function within the bounds of existing ecological resources.
In advance of this year’s Earth Overshoot Day, the Global Footprint Network launched the #MoveTheDate Solutions Map, where users can connect with others based on geography and area of interest, and accelerate implementation of new projects. It also includes solutions identified by partners, and is designed to complement the Footprint Calculator, which: enables people to calculate their Ecological Footprint and personal Earth Overshoot Day; has more than 2.5 million users per year; and is available in eight languages (Hindi, English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Spanish and Italian).
According to the Global Footprint Network, solutions are already available and financially advantageous, with opportunities related to cities, energy, food, population and the planet. For example, reducing CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning by 50% would move Earth Overshoot Day back 93 days and contribute to SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy). In addition, use of existing energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies for buildings, industrial processes and electricity production could move Overshoot Day back by at least 21 days, without any loss in productivity or comfort, according to research undertaken by Schneider Electric and the Global Footprint Network.
Other examples of solutions include:
- Reducing driving by 50% and assuming one-third of car miles are replaced by public transportation and the rest by biking and walking would move Earth Overshoot Day back 11.5 days, thereby contributing to, among others, SDG 11 (sustainable cities and livelihoods);
- Decreasing global meat consumption by 50% would move Overshoot Day back by 15 days, and halving food waste would move Overshoot Day 10 days back, thereby contributing to SDGs 12 (responsible consumption and production) and 2 (zero hunger); and
- Reforesting 350 million hectares of forest would move Overshoot Day back by eight days, contributing to SDG 15 (life on land).
The Global Footprint Network aims to help end overshoot by ensuring that ecological limits are central to decision making by providing: simple and scalable metrics; actionable insights regarding natural resource consumption and capacity; and tools and analysis to guide informed decisions. [UNFCCC Press Release] [Overshoot Day Press Release] [Solutions to #MoveTheDate] [Background Information on Earth Overshoot Day] [Global Footprint Network Website] [Ecological Footprint Calculator] [Steps to Move Back Earth Overshoot Day] [Country Footprints] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on 2018 Earth Overshoot Day]