COVID-19 shifts Earth Overshoot Day 2020 by more than 3 weeks


Earth Overshoot Day comes more than three weeks later than last year, on August 22, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced humanity’s activities to slow down abruptly. 

This significantly later date, compared to last year, reflects a reduction in the global Ecological Footprint by almost 10% between January 1st and Earth Overshoot Day.

According to research by Global Footprint Network, this reduction was largely caused by travel and construction slowdown due to COVID-19 induced lockdowns around the world.

Carbon emissions dropped 14.5% and forest product harvests went down by 8%.

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Although this year’s Earth Overshoot Day has been moved by more than three weeks, Schneider Electric and the Global Footprint Network suggest it has pushed back, but for the wrong reasons.

The drop in resource consumption observed in 2020 was sudden and unexpected. Because it was imposed, it is bound to be temporary. Humanity continues to demand as much from nature as if we lived on 1.6 Earths.

Schneider Electric and the Global Footprint Network have released a new e-book “Strategies for One-Planet Prosperity” that presents a framework for companies to remain relevant in a world increasingly shaped by climate change and resource constraints.

If 100% of the existing buildings and industry infrastructure around the world were equipped with readily available energy efficiency and renewable energy technology, the date of Earth Overshoot Day could move back by at least 21 days, according to the e-book.

This means that energy retrofits alone could make a difference of three weeks.

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.

“With the necessary economic recovery on everybody’s mind, the time has come for entrepreneurs and industry leaders to recognize that delivering products and services that enhance humanity’s ability to succeed is not about doing good, but doing what’s necessary for their business,” says Mathis Wackernagel, the founder and president of Global Footprint Network.

Olivier Blum, chief strategy and sustainability officer of Schneider Electric, adds: “Together we can move from the COVID-19 crisis forced onto us to a future that is resilient and workable for all, by design. One key ingredient is to shift the sustainability conversation from noble to fundamentally necessary. This can help unleash the groundswell for one-planet prosperity, the most viable strategy we know of. It surely beats one-planet misery.

On Earth Overshoot Day, humanity will have used all the natural resources that Earth can replenish in the entire year — including the capacity of natural ecosystems to absorb carbon emissions from fossil fuel burning.

The e-book: Strategy for One-planet Prosperity: How to build lasting business success on a finite planet is available for download.