Saturday December 14, 2019

EU Countries Consume Earth’s Resources Faster than they can be Renewed: Report

Some 100 Greenpeace activists and students from several European countries marched through Sibiu carrying a huge banner saying "Broken Climate Broken Future"

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earth's resources
France's President Emmanuel Macron, right, and President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker speak during the informal meeting of European Union leaders in Sibiu, Romania, May 9, 2019. VOA

The European Union’s 28 countries consume the Earth’s resources faster than they can be renewed and none of them has sustainable consumption policies, a report released Thursday said, as EU leaders met to discuss priorities for the next five years.

“All EU countries are living beyond the means of our planet. The EU and its citizens are currently using twice more than the EU ecosystems can renew,” the report by the World Wide Fund (WWF) and Global Footprint Network said. It was issued as leaders met in the Romanian city of Sibiu to set the course for the bloc after Britain’s planned departure from the EU.

Climate change key priority

French President Emmanuel Macron said before the summit that climate change was among his key priorities and it was included in the bloc’s 10 “commitments” for the future until 2024, agreed by all the 27 leaders meeting in Sibiu.

earth's resources
The European Union’s 28 countries consume the Earth’s resources faster than they can be renewed and none of them has sustainable consumption policies. Pixabay

But the bloc is divided on how to achieve any ambitious climate goals and it remains far from clear how the Sibiu declaration would be implemented. Some 100 Greenpeace activists and students from several European countries marched through Sibiu carrying a huge banner saying “Broken Climate Broken Future.”

“We cannot talk about a prosperous future without a healthy climate,” Greenpeace climate activist Alin Tanase told Reuters. Views on concrete action to be taken to combat climate change differ between EU countries, influenced greatly by their dominant industries, such as carmakers in Germany or the coal industry in Poland.

Tusk sensitive to climate change

The chairman of the summit, President of the European Council Donald Tusk, said there was no future for politicians who were not sensitive to climate change and environment protection issues.

“The young generation is much more united on this than the member states. The truth is that nothing has changed when it comes to this divide and different opinions about this. What is new is this very fresh and energetic pressure,” he told a news conference after the summit.

climate change, earth's resources
Some 100 Greenpeace activists and students from several European countries marched through Sibiu carrying a huge banner saying “Broken Climate Broken Future.” VOA

Climate protection and sustainable development is also an important topic in the election campaign for the May 23-26 European Parliament elections, which will influence the leadership of European institutions and their programs.

The European Commission has been pushing for the EU to become climate neutral by 2050 through reducing carbon emissions that will otherwise boost the Earth’s average temperatures with devastating consequences.

“The EU uses up almost 20 percent of the Earth’s bio-capacity although it comprises only 7 percent of the world population,” the WWF report said. “In other words, 2.8 planets would be needed if everyone consumed at the rate of the average EU resident,” it said.

climate change, earth's resources
FILE – Climate change demonstrators hold banners in front of the Winston Churchill Statue during a protest near Parliament in London, April 12, 2019. VOA

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Luxembourg smallest but fastest

It said the EU’s smallest and richest country, Luxembourg, was also the one which used up renewable resources the fastest last year. Just 46 days into the year, it had consumed its full share of the Earth’s resources, it said.

The EU’s poorest nation, Romania, took the longest to arrive at that point, on July 12th. But that was still earlier than the world’s average of Aug. 1, called Earth overshoot day. (VOA)

Next Story

Here’s how Carbon Footprint Can be Reduced in India

Carbon footprint in India can be reduced by 20%

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Carbon global warming

BY VISHAL GULATI

The report focuses on the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the two most carbon-intensive products — passenger cars and residential buildings.

Producing and using materials more efficiently to build passenger cars and residential homes could cut carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent emissions between 2016 and 2060 by up to 25 gigaton across the Group of Seven (G7) member states, the International Resource Panel (IRP) finds in a summary for policymakers released here on Wednesday.

This is more than double the annual emissions from all the world’s coal-fuelled power plants.

The IRP finds that emissions from the production of materials like metals, wood, minerals and plastics more than doubled over the 20-year period to 2015, accounting for almost one-quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions.

Carbon products cars
Majority of carbon-intensive products are used in manufacturing cars. Pixabay

It warns that without boosting material efficiency, it will be almost impossible and substantially more expensive to keep global heating below 1.5 degrees Celsius — the more ambitious of the two Paris climate targets.

The IRP Summary for Policymakers, Resource Efficiency and Climate Change: Material Efficiency Strategies for a Low-Carbon Future, prepared at the request of the G7, is the first comprehensive scientific analysis estimating total cuts in greenhouse gas emissions in homes and cars that can be achieved through material efficiency.

Together, the construction and manufacturing sectors are responsible for an estimated 80 per cent of emissions generated by the first use of materials.

Using strategies and technologies that already exist, G7 countries could save up to 170 million tons of carbon emissions from residential homes in 2050.

India could save 270 million tons, and China could save 350 million tons in 2050 in this same sector.

If we look at the full lifecycle of cars, material efficiency strategies could help G7 countries, China and India reduce GHG emissions by up to 450 million tons each in 2050. These reductions can help countries stay within their carbon budget.

Extending the lifetime of products, reusing components, substituting or using less material, and making more intensive use of materials by, for example, ride-sharing, are all strategies that G7 countries could implement today to tackle global warming.

“Climate mitigation efforts have traditionally focused on enhancing energy efficiency and accelerating the transition to renewables. While this is still key, this report shows that material efficiency can also deliver big gains,” UN Environment Executive Director Inger Andersen said.

The IRP finds that the carbon footprint of the production of materials for cars could be cut by up to 70 per cent in G7 countries, and 60 per cent in China and 50 per cent in India in 2050.

The largest emission savings from passenger vehicles come from a change in how people use cars, like car-pooling and car-sharing, and a move away from large SUVs.

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The construction and manufacturing sectors are responsible for an estimated 80 per cent of emissions generated by the first use of materials. Pixabay

The report also shows that greenhouse gas emissions from the production of materials for residential buildings in the G7, China and India could be reduced between 50 and 80 per cent in 2050 with greater material efficiency.

The most promising strategies include more intensive use of space e.g. reducing demand for floor space, switching out concrete and masonry for sustainably produced wood, improving recycling, and building lighter homes using less carbon-intensive steel, cement and glass.

Reducing demand for floor space in the G7 by up to 20 per cent could lower greenhouse gas emissions from the production of materials by up to 73 per cent in 2050.

Shared homes, smaller units, and downsizing when children move out lead to these big reductions.

The cuts revealed by the report are on top of emission savings generated by the decarbonisation of electricity supply, the electrification of home energy use, and the shift towards electric and hybrid vehicles.

Many of these emission reductions will only be possible if countries create enabling policy environments and incentives, the report says.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres wants countries to increase the ambition of their climate targets at the ongoing UN climate change negotiations (COP25) that entered its final stage in this Spanish capital.

Also Read- 86 Fashion Companies Partner with Political Leaders to Deliver Climate Action

The IRP report urges policymakers to integrate material efficiency into their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to set higher emission reduction targets that will limit the damage from global warming.

Currently, only Japan, India, China, and Turkey mention resource efficiency, resources management, material efficiency, circular economy or consumption side instruments as explicit mitigation measures in their NDCs. (IANS)