This Saturday (22 August) will be “Earth Overshoot Day”, the day on which Earth’s ecosystems will be exhausted, and humanity’s demand for the planet’s resources for the rest of the year can no longer be regenerated. Consequently, the Club of Rome and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research are calling for a global emergency plan. EURACTIV Germany reports.
By the end of 2020, humanity will have used up as many natural resources to theoretically cover 1.6 planet Earths.
Earth Overshoot Day is proclaimed every year by the international initiative Global Footprint Network, this year in cooperation with the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency and the University of Glasgow.
The date will fall three weeks later than usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has shrunk the ecological footprint of humanity by 9.3%, according to the organisers.
The Global Footprint network uses around 15,000 data points per country for its calculations. The data compares the supply and consumption of resources such as water, forests, fish or crops with the consumption of energy or food.
Once these are consumed, some form of ecological debt account is created that cannot be replenished if development remains unchanged.
“We can live on this loan up to a certain point. But we are now on an irreversible path, as developments in Antarctica or Greenland show,” said Johan Rockström, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) at an online conference on Thursday. The speed and the interconnection of planetary systems had been underestimated, he added.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that “at least some states are able to show solidarity in times of crisis”, said Sandrine Dixson-Declève, co-president of the Club of Rome. This must also apply to climate change, which is not a singular crisis. “We must create this solidarity between North and South, local, national and international,” Dixson-Declève added.
Cut global emissions by half by 2030
The Club of Rome and the PIK describe what this could look like in a new edition of their “Planet Emergency Plan“.
Among other things, the authors call for global emissions to be halved by 2030.
To achieve this, the expansion of renewable energies is to be doubled every four years and annual investments tripled. In addition, the industrialised countries need a standardised minimum carbon price starting at $30, which should gradually increase.
At the same time, fossil fuels are to be taxed much more heavily and their production completely discontinued.
To protect resources worldwide, the plan calls for a global moratorium on deforestation and oil and gas production. On top of that, it urges countries to stop converting moors, grasslands and savannahs into pasturelands from 2025 on.
Their protection is to be financed with three times the amount of money, including from the international Green Climate Fund, into which $200 billion should flow over the coming decade.
1.5 degree-mark soon to be reached
The year 2020, according to the Club of Rome’s Dixson-Declève, needs to be marked by a global emergency to initiate a decade of climate protection because the global climate has now reached a critical point. Back in November 2019, the EU Parliament declared a climate emergency.
According to the latest climate forecasts of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the global average temperature is likely to be at least one and a half degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels (1850-1900) in next five years.
According to calculations by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the earth could heat up by two to five degrees by the end of the century.
This also has economic consequences, as a study published on Wednesday by PIK together with the Mercator Research Institute for Global Commons and Climate Change shows. According to the study, global warming of four degrees would probably lead to an average drop in economic output of almost 10% in many regions across the world.