Natural resources ran out today – Earth Overshoot Day arrives early this year

Press release 2015-08-13 at 16:15

Press release of the Ministry of the Environment and WWF Finland

Today, 13 August 2015, people have used up all the renewable resources the Earth can re-generate this year. Earth Overshoot Day has never arrived this early; we are almost a week ahead compared to last year. The single most important factor affecting the date of Earth Overshoot Day is our growing carbon footprint.

Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when, according to calculations, humanity’s ecological footprint exceeds Earth’s biocapacity, i.e. the capacity to generate renewable resources and process the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels. This is the earliest Earth Overshoot Day in history. The previous Earth Overshoot Day was on 19 August 2014. The date for each year is determined by calculations by the Global Footprint Network think tank.

“Earth Overshoot Day is an important wake-up call. The Finnish Government wants to find solutions to the problem. Our goal is to be the leading country in bioeconomy, circular economy and clean solutions, and become independent of fossil energy. We want to find and offer new solutions to pressing global problems,” says Kimmo Tiilikainen, the Minister of Agriculture and the Environment.

“Overshooting Earth’s resources will eventually lead to their depletion. Our well-being is dependent on nutrition, water and energy provided by nature. We have to stop overusing the resources now,” Liisa Rohweder, the CEO of WWF Finland, notes emphatically.

The growing carbon footprint is the single most important reason for the gap between humanity’s ecological footprint and Earth’s biocapacity. Carbon footprint is linked to other human activities that make up the ecological footprint: the use of land for agriculture, the exploitation of forests, and the construction of buildings and roads on arable land.

“The more land we need to satisfy the global demand for food and forestry products, the less land we have for vegetation that could tie the carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. At the moment, our emissions into the atmosphere are so extensive that we would need to double the amount of Earth’s forests in order to keep the carbon dioxide content at its current level and stop climate change,” Rohweder notes.

International climate convention is the key to controlling overshoot

Based on the calculations by the Global Footprint Network, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 30 per cent from their current level by 2030 would postpone Earth Overshoot Day to September.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference will be held in Paris in December, with the objective of achieving an international climate convention that would limit the global temperature increase to 2 °C above pre-industrial levels.

“This requires immediate actions from all countries. The international convention could be used to create a clear and predictable global environment for the investments that are necessary in order to reduce emissions,” Minister Tiilikainen says.

Keep your own consumption under control with food and energy choices

The consequences of overshoot are evident every day, in the form of forest loss, aridity, fresh water shortage, eroded soil and reduced natural biodiversity, among other things.

In Finland, there is no shortage of natural resources, but the Finnish ecological footprint is large. It is easy to make one’s ecological footprint smaller by choosing one’s food carefully, because about 20% of carbon dioxide emissions produced by humans come from food.

Rohweder shares three tips on eco-friendly eating: “Reduce your meat consumption by eating more vegetables and sustainable seafood, do not throw food away and buy ethically produced food.”

Housing and transport also require large amounts of natural resources and energy. Smart energy use, energy renovation, geothermal and district heating or solutions such as solar panels are ways of cutting down emissions and the electricity bill in detached houses. Those living in apartment buildings can choose wind power as their energy supply method, ask their district heating provider to use renewable energy sources and support their housing company’s ventures to improve energy efficiency.

“The best ways to move are by public transport or using one’s own muscles,” Minister Tiilikainen recommends.

More information:

Liisa Rohweder, CEO, WWF Finland, tel. +358 (0)40 840 7461, firstname.lastname@wwf.fi

Head of Programme, Jussi Nikula, WWF Suomi, tel. +358 (0)40 595 9002, firstname.lastname@wwf.fi

Marja Innanen, Counsellor, Ministry of the Environment, tel. +358 (0)295 250 101, firstname.H.lastname@ymparisto.fi

Anne Kettunen, Special Adviser, Ministry of the Environment, tel. +358 (0)46 923 5169, firstname.lastname@ymparisto.fi

Website managed by Global Footprint Network: www.overshootday.org

The WWF food guide for sustainable food choices: wwf.fi/ruokaopas