Switch off your lights, turn off your computer and prepare to fast! We’ve run out of resources! Is this the message from Earth Overshoot Day, the day in the year by which we’ve used the globes budget of resources and pollution absorbance capacity – or is there more to it?
Our guest writer is Mike Childs, head of climate change at Friends of the Earth
Switch off your lights, turn off your computer and prepare to fast! We’ve run out of resources! Is this the message from Earth Overshoot Day, the day in the year by which we’ve used the globe’s budget of resources and pollution absorbance capacity – or is there more to it?
The Global Footprint Network cleverly worked out that 21 August is the day we spill into negative equity. It’s a catchy headline – but it highlights a stark, and wider, story. We are far exceeding the Earth’s capacity and we need to cut back significantly if we want to avoid the consequences.
It’s well documented that the bulk of the climate-changing emissions in the atmosphere, for example, are from the world’s rich countries. Even now the emissions of the average American and European far outstrip those of the average citizen of India or China.
Yet it is also well known that these averages hide the bigger picture within countries – the carbon footprint of the super-wealthy, high-consuming American far outweighs the carbon footprint of the poor migrant worker cleaning their swimming pool.
In the UK, too, the situation is stark – income inequalities have continued to increase despite having a Labour Government for 13 years. Again, a footballer playing for Chelsea will have a vastly larger carbon footprint, what with super-charged sports cars, a country mansion and jaunts to Dubai, than the working class family living just down the road. But the planet can’t sustain a country full of Rio Ferdinands.
At the same time, in developing countries, the wealthiest live within plush air-conditioned apartments and fly by private jet whilst the slum dwellers surrounding them are a million miles away from getting their fair share of the planet’s wealth. So how do we consign Earth Overshoot Day to history? The response to the challenge must be to reduce over-consumption and share out the Earth’s resources more fairly.
It’s a key concept playing out in a whole host of forums – but none more important than the ongoing UN climate negotiations. The idea that nations should cut emissions fairly – which means the rich reducing their over-consumption of natural resources, and thus their emissions, first – is a key blockage in the run up to the next major climate summit in Cancùn later this year.
The next round of talks before the summit are coming up in a few weeks’ time. Friends of the Earth believes that overconsumption by the rich world must be tackled – and that a first step to achieving this should be the Government pushing the EU to sign up to emissions reduction targets of at least 40 per cent without carbon offsetting. With riches comes responsibility – and we should lead the way to show we’re serious in reaching a time when overshooting is a distant memory.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.