Earth Overshoot Day, a date that comes ever earlier each year

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Each year, Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity has exhausted all the resources the Earth can renew in one year. In 2022, this day falls on July 28. An appointment that has occurred – apart from exceptional periods – ever earlier since 1970. Deemed useful by several NGOs for measuring the ecological impact of human activity, this index is still very little used in modes of global governance.

From today, humanity consumes on credit. Year after year, Overshoot Day – the date when humanity has used up as many resources as the Earth can regenerate in a year – comes earlier, moving from December 29 in 1970 to October 11 in 1990. , and this year to Thursday July 28, thus increasing the “ecological debt” towards the planet.

While this date may have signaled improvements over the past five decades, these are in fact exceptions, due to times of crisis. In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the repeated confinements it caused, had thus led to the postponement of Earth Overshoot Day to August 22.

Since 1970, Earth Overshoot Day has been occurring earlier and earlier in the year. © National Footprint and Biocapacity Accounts 2022

“The deficit is widening more and more without there being a real jump in the political system and the various mandates”, regrets Véronique Andrieux, director of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in France. “And the setbacks in the date were suffered and not chosen. We observe an improvement during oil shocks, a pandemic or financial crises”, she continues.

The dunce cap in Qatar and Luxembourg

This indicator therefore varies from one State to another. The worst student for the year 2022, according to the list compiled by the think tank Global Footprint Network, is Qatar, which reached its Overshoot Day on February 10, followed closely by Luxembourg on February 14.

For France, it took place this year on May 5. A date that could move back 25 days in just one term if the French government deployed “ecological planning”, according to the scenario envisaged by the WWF.

>> To read also: “Ecological sobriety: a model for consuming less, but which is struggling to convince the French”

At the global level, postponing Earth Overshoot Day by six days each year could reach the date of December 31 by 2050, explains Global Footprint Network, the source of this calculation.

Since 2003, the think tank has sought to challenge public opinion on the phenomenon. The hashtag #MoveTheDate thus calls on Internet users to propose concrete solutions to move the date back. Since 2007, the organization has also provided a platform for calculating its ecological footprint.

“An extraordinary tool for raising awareness”

Based on data from UN reports, Global Footprint Network crosses the ecological footprint per person (the amount of surface area needed for a human to feed, move, house…) and global biocapacity ( capacity of ecosystems to renew themselves) per person, making it possible to establish Overshoot Day. An index which it would be desirable – for the spokesperson for the NGO, Laetitia Mailhes – that sovereign States use to measure other aspects of the ecological crisis.

An opinion shared by the director of WWF France, Véronique Andrieux, for whom Overshoot Day presents a “robust and solid” methodology that goes beyond the carbon footprint. “We are not only talking about a climate crisis but also about an ecological crisis as a whole and in particular the collapse of biodiversity.”

>> To read also: “Overshoot Day in France: ‘This quinquennium begins in the red'”

For the time being, however, few States agree to this indicator. Only a few countries like Montenegro base their sustainable development strategy on the ecological footprint. Some municipalities have also already opted for this calculation method. This is the case for around twenty cities in Portugal.

Even if the interest of using the overshoot day index at the level of the state of governance remains to be activated, it represents a tool that has proven itself in raising public awareness of environmental issues. For Bettina Laville, honorary president of Comité 21, a French network of sustainable development actors, “it is an extraordinary, extremely telling awareness-raising tool, which has succeeded in making people aware in a concrete way of what may seem abstract “.


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