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‘Earth Overshoot Day’ to fall earlier than last year, campaigners warn

Image credit: Elizabeth Lies | Unsplash

Humans will have used up our quota of the Earth’s biological resources by late July, almost a month earlier than last year, according to campaigners.

The Global Footprint Network has calculated that this year’s Earth Overshoot Day will fall on July 29, several weeks sooner than last year when it fell on August 22. Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity has used all the natural resources that the Earth regenerates during the entire year.

Campaigners said that this year’s date is almost as early as 2019, when it fell on July 26, after being  pushed back in 2020 by lockdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ahead of the forthcoming COP26 UN climate change conference in Glasgow, campaigners said that leaders must “put the planet first” as part of post-Covid recovery plans.

Susan Aitken, leader of Glasgow City Council, announced the date of Earth Overshoot Day on behalf of the Global Footprint Network and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa).

Aitken said: “With almost half a year remaining, we will already have used up our quota of the Earth’s biological resources for 2021 by July 29. If we need reminding that we’re in the grip of a climate and ecological emergency, Earth Overshoot Day is it.”

She added: “Let Earth Overshoot Day be our call to arms. In November, the eyes of the world will be on Glasgow, host of COP26, the climate summit that needs to make the decisions that will deliver our planet on a safer and more sustainable future.

“We’ve got the opportunity here in Glasgow to show the world what we’re doing, coalescing together as a city to show real change, to respond to the climate and ecological emergency. Let’s put our planet first and let’s #MoveTheDate together.”

So far in 2021, the carbon footprint from transport remains lower than pre-pandemic levels, with CO2 emissions from domestic air travel and road transport set to remain 5 per cent below 2019 levels and international aviation expected to register 33 per cent below, according the International Energy Agency (IEA).

However, global energy-related CO2 emissions are projected to rebound and grow by 4.8 per cent from last year as the economic recovery ignites demand for fossil fuels, while global coal use is anticipated to jump in 2021 and is estimated to contribute 40 per cent of the total carbon footprint this year.

Laurel Hanscom, chief executive of Global Footprint Network, said: “As the UN Decade of Ecosystems Restoration is launched on World Environment Day, June 5, this data makes abundantly clear that recovery plans in the post-Covid- 19 era can only be successful in the long term if they embrace regeneration and ecological resource-efficiency.”

Campaigners said that humanity currently uses 74 per cent more natural resources than the planet’s ecosystems can regenerate and that from Earth Overshoot Day until the end of the year it operates on “ecological deficit spending”.

Notable drivers of this year’s early date are the 6.6 per cent carbon footprint increase over last year and the 0.5 per cent decrease in global forest biocapacity, due in large part to a spike in Amazon deforestation.

Terry A’Hearn, chief executive of Sepa, said: “In November, as a weary world turns its attention to Scotland and COP26, together we can choose one-planet prosperity over one-planet misery. We can and must build from the pandemic, our global ability to plan, to protect and move at pace.”

Last month, the UN published a report, ‘State of Finance for Nature’, looking at how to tackle the planet’s climate, biodiversity and land degradation crises. It estimated that about $8tn in investment would be needed by mid-century to safeguard natural systems and that global annual spending to protect and restore nature would need to triple this decade to around $350bn, rising to $536bn by 2050.

At the most recent (virtual) summit of world leaders aimed at driving greater climate action, held in April, US President Joe Biden announced new targets to cut greenhouse gas pollution in the US by at least half by 2030.

President Biden said the move could help build a more prosperous, equitable society in the face of an escalating environmental calamity: “The signs are unmistakeable, the science is undeniable. The cost of inaction keeps mounting.”

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