Thursday 02/04/2020

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Our planet continues to deplete its resources

Responsible Investment Strategist

As of Wednesday 2 August 2017, humanity’s resource consumption for the year will have exceeded Earth’s capacity to regenerate those resources that year, in not even eight months.

Specifically, Earth Overshoot Day is the day on which we have consumed all the natural resources produced by our planet during one given year. Since 1986, this date has been calculated based on more than 6,000 pieces of data, mostly obtained from the United Nations.

Ever earlier

Since the NGO Global Footprint Network first calculated Earth Overshoot Day in 1986, it has occurred earlier every year, meaning that consumption has exceeded resources by an ever greater margin year after year.

















Our global consumption patterns currently require the equivalent of natural resources produced by 1.7 Earths per year. Water stress and desertification, soil erosion, less biodiversity and growing extinction of species: the costs of such overconsumption can be felt every day.

And per country?

Move the date

Although the rate at which Earth Overshoot Day moves up the year has slowed since 2005 and people have become increasingly aware that natural resources are limited, Global Footprint Network encourages people to try and keep the date as far down the year as possible with its #movethedate initiative. However, these efforts would have to be multiplied by five in order to reverse the rate and have the date occur later each year.

Carbon dioxide emissions currently account for 60% of a country’s ecological footprint. By halving total emissions, we could gain 89 days and reduce our overconsumption of natural resources to 1.2 Earths. Moreover, this is one of the challenges of the nearly universally agreed Paris Climate Agreement of December 2015 which continues to combat global warming and is endorsed by many states, companies and partners, despite the United States pulling out.

Energy and agriculture

Of course, energy plays an important role in reducing carbon emissions. Most countries are investing massively in renewable energy to become energy self-sufficient, such as Costa Rica, which generates 100% of its electricity by renewable energy. Closer to home, Portugal, Germany and the UK have invested in increasing their renewable energy generation capacity.

The food and agricultural sector is also a major contributor to a country’s carbon footprint (28%). By fostering food production processes which respect the soil and natural resources and are energy efficient and by reducing food waste, Earth Overshoot Day would occur significantly later in the year.

Investors may also make a difference

Although companies may make a difference by fostering more environmentally friendly production and consumption processes, investors also have an important role to play by focusing their investments on companies which do their best to protect the environment. Many companies aim to develop solutions to address these issues, in particular with regard to more efficient energy and water technologies, or more sustainable and less polluting agricultural activities. By upholding best practices and innovation in terms of environmental efficiency, investors can participate in the low-carbon economy while continuing to grow their capital.