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Earth Overshoot Day has come early

29th July 2019


July 29 was Earth Overshoot Day.

Earth Overshoot Day marks the day when human demand for food, fibre, timber, and carbon absorption (global Ecological Footprint) exceeds the amount of biological resources that earth's ecosystems can renew in the whole year (global biocapacity). This year, it falls on the earliest date ever, according to the Global Footprint Network. This means that we're using the planet's resources 1.75 times faster than nature can renew.

Since the world fell into ecological overshoot in the early 1970s, Earth Overshoot Day has been progressively landing earlier in the calendar. Thirty years ago, it landed in October, and twenty years ago, it was in late September. The recent uptick in carbon emissions has significantly pushed up the date in the last two years. Carbon emissions make up 60 per cent of the total Ecological Footprint.

Schneider Electric has released a white paper to promote one-planet compatibility as the necessary framework for long-term business success. Developed in partnership with the Global Footprint Network, the international sustainability organisation that pioneered the Ecological Footprint, the white paper lays out a detailed approach and supporting metric for one-planet compatibility and the reduction of carbon emissions.

The trend is reversible

One-planet compatibility requires moving the date of Earth Overshoot back to December 31 or beyond and decarbonising the economy is a powerful lever to #MoveTheDate. Cutting global carbon emissions in half would move the date by three months, according to Global Footprint Network. For the last two years, Schneider Electric has been working with the Global Footprint Network to assess solutions. 

Research by these two organisations indicates that if 100 per cent of the existing building and industry infrastructure were equipped with readily available energy efficiency and renewable energy technology from Schneider Electric and its partners, assuming no shift in human habits, the date of Earth Overshoot Day could move back by at least 21 days. This means that energy retrofits alone could make a difference of three weeks. For added perspective, if we move Earth Overshoot Day back by five days every year, we will be back to one-planet compatibility before 2050, in line with the Paris Climate Agreement. The white paper contains more research and insights on the imperative for efficient infrastructure investment to move back the Earth Overshoot date and mitigate climate change.

Implications for business of failiure to act

In 2019, Schneider Electric and the Global Footprint Network teamed up to invite business leaders to assess how one-planet compatibility strategies can deliver differentiation and value in the market. One-planet companies offer goods and services that help balance society's demands on nature with what the earth's ecosystems can provide. Research indicates that companies with business models that increase human well-being and resource security are much more likely to be economically successful in the long-run than those companies that are incompatible with one-planet prosperity, and will inevitably face shrinking demand and increasing risks.

"One-planet compatibility has to become a new measurement of how a given business strategy helps society, or not, move the date of Earth Overshoot Day," said Xavier Houot, Senior Vice President Global Safety, Environment, Real Estate at Schneider Electric. "Such a metric forces the adoption of an outside-in lens and introspect: 'does our business operate within one-planet constraints and boundaries?' and 'do our offers tangibly help our customers move out of ecological overshoot?' If the answers are positive, long-term prosperity is much more likely. Being part of the solution carries increasingly more weight in the eyes of investors, markets, and today's workforce."

The white paper, entitled The Business Case for One-planet Prosperity, highlights the impact of decarbonisation, infrastructure upgrades, retrofits and legislation on postponing Earth Overshoot Day. It also outlines strategies to deliver long-term value from several companies in diverse sectors such as energy, food, healthcare and waste remediation. It is available for download here.

 







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