The modest gains from the pandemic-induced resource use reductions were short-lived, highlighting the urgency of driving an economic recovery where all can thrive within the means of the Earth.
GLASGOW, UK — June 4th, 2021 — Earth Overshoot Day 2021 lands on July 29.
Today, Councillor Susan Aitken, the Leader of Glasgow City Council, announced the following on behalf of the Global Footprint Network and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA):
“With almost half a year remaining, we will already have used up our quota of the Earth’s biological resources for 2021 by July 29th. If we need a reminder that we’re in the grip of a climate and ecological emergency, the Earth Overshoot Day is it,” she said.
The date is almost as early as in 2019, after being momentarily pushed back in 2020 by the coronavirus pandemic-induced lockdowns. Notable drivers are the 6.6% carbon footprint increase over last year, as well as the 0.5% decrease in global forest biocapacity, largely due to the spike in Amazon deforestation—in Brazil alone, 1.1 million hectares were lost in 2020 and estimates for 2021 indicate up to 43% year-over-year increase in deforestation.
“As the UN Decade of Ecosystems Restoration is launched on World Environment Day, June 5th, this data makes it 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,” said Global Footprint Network CEO Laurel Hanscom.
Each year, the Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity has used all the biological resources that the Earth regenerates during the entire year. Humanity currently uses 74% more than what the planet’s ecosystems can regenerate—or “1.7 Earths”. From the Earth Overshoot Day until the end of the year, humanity operates on ecological deficit spending. This spending is currently some of the largest since the world entered into ecological overshoot in the early 1970s, according to the National Footprint & Biocapacity Accounts (NFA) based on the UN datasets.
In 2021, the carbon footprint of transportation remains lower than the pre-pandemic levels. CO2 emissions from domestic air travel and road transport are set to remain 5% below 2019 levels, while international aviation is expected to register 33% below, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Global energy-related CO2 emissions, on the other hand, are projected to rebound and grow by 4.8% from last year as the economic recovery ignites the demand for fossil fuels. In particular, global coal use is anticipated to jump in 2021 and is estimated to contribute 40% of the total carbon footprint this year.
Business-as-usual must be left behind
Last year, as the pandemic hit around the world, governments demonstrated they can act swiftly, both in terms of regulations and spending, when they put human lives above all else. The perfect storm that is brewing, as climate change impacts and biological resource security converge, requires the same level—or higher—of alertness and swift action from decision-makers.
“In November, as a weary world turns its attention to Scotland and COP26, we can choose one-planet prosperity over one-planet misery together. We can and must build from the pandemic—our global ability to plan, protect, and move at pace. Scottish innovation helped lead the Industrial Revolution; in 2021, the Glasgow summit and the future we choose as each community, city, company, or country, offers real hope for a new net-zero revolution,” said SEPA CEO Terry A’Hearn.
Through their infrastructure and regulatory powers, cities have significant opportunities to shape their resource efficiency and, with it, their future. Given their risk exposure, aligning their development plans with what resiliency requires in a world shaped by climate change and biological resource constraints has become cities’ utmost priority regardless of international agreements.
“Cities are ideal living laboratories for social and environmental innovation, offering significant learning to create real-world solutions and transformation. And universities have an obligation to act in partnership with their host cities to accelerate progress toward a just and sustainable future,” said Professor Jaime Toney, director of the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Sustainable Solutions. “We are working with a people- and place-based approach to deliver positive change for a climate-resilient city whose legacy lasts beyond COP26.”
“Let the Earth Overshoot Day be our call to arms,” stated Councillor Susan Aitken, the Leader of Glasgow City Council. “In November, the eyes of the world will be on Glasgow, the host of COP26, the climate summit that needs to make the decisions that will lead our planet to a safer and more sustainable future. We have got the opportunity here in Glasgow to show the world what we are 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.”