US and Europe stand behind majority of global ecological damage

11:43 10.05.2023 •

Photo: The Guardian

US and Europe stand behind majority of global ecological damage, says study, published in the journal Lancet Planetary Health, writes ‘The Guardian’.

The US and Europe are responsible for the majority of global ecological damage caused by the overuse of natural resources, according to a groundbreaking study.

The paper is the first to analyse and assign responsibility for the ecological damage caused by 160 countries over the last half century.

It finds that the US is the biggest culprit, accounting for 27% of the world’s excess material use, followed by the EU (25%), which included the UK during the analysis period. Other rich countries such as Australia, Canada, Japan and Saudi Arabia were collectively responsible for 22%.

While China overshot its sustainability limit to claim 15% of resource overuse, the poorer countries of the global south were en masse responsible for just 8%, the analysis found.

“High-income nations are the primary drivers of global ecological breakdown and they need to urgently reduce their resource use to fair and sustainable levels,” it says.

Prof. Jason Hickel of the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA-UAB) in Barcelona told the Guardian: “We didn’t expect it to be so high. If they are now to achieve sustainable levels, they need to reduce their resource use by about 70% on average from existing levels.”

The evidence suggested that this would require rich countries such as the UK and US “to stop focusing on GDP growth as a primary objective and organise their economies instead around supporting human wellbeing and reducing inequality”, he said.

Australia led the world in tonnes of overshoot per capita with 29.16, closely followed by Canada on 25.82 and then the US on 23.45.

About 44% of the planet’s nearly 2.5 tn tonnes of extracted materials were used by countries that had exceeded their fair share of resource use, the study said.


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