Consuming the world's resources: Europe's role, Europe's responsibilities

15 September 2009

Brussels, 15 September 2009 - Europe is using increasing quantities of the world's natural resources, according to a new report [1] launched by Friends of the Earth Europe at the 'World Resources Forum' in Davos, Switzerland today [2]. The report also shows that Europe is more dependant on imported resources than other global regions.

The extraction and use of natural resources such as food crops, fossil fuels, minerals, agrofuels and timber has major environmental and social impacts. Case studies in the report – including of oil extraction in Nigeria and biofuel production in Indonesia - demonstrate some of these impacts. Europe does not just import such materials directly, it also imports them as part of finished products, for example a computer imported from China will have large amounts of resources associated with its production.

Dr Michael Warhurst, who leads Friends of the Earth Europe's Resources and Consumption campaign, said: "Europe is using an ever-increasing amount of the world's resources, and our society is already very dependant on imports of materials – yet we have no targets to reduce this resource use, and new policies are not assessed for their potential to increase our resource efficiency.

"Friends of the Earth Europe is calling on the EU to take the first steps to tackle this issue through ensuring that our resource use is measured, and by adopting new policies to increase our resource efficiency, such as higher recycling targets. The EU must also start to devise long term targets and strategies in order to radically reduce our resource use."

Friends of the Earth Europe and Sustainable Europe Research Institute (SERI) have analysed possible methods of measuring Europe's resource use, and are proposing that four key aspects be covered: material use (the focus of this report), land use, water use and greenhouse gas emissions [3]. Each of these analyses must properly account for the
impacts of Europe's consumption on the rest of the world, by incorporating the 'rucksack' of the resources used to make products which are imported into Europe.

Dr Warhurst added: "In order to continue to thrive on this planet, our societies will need to become less resource dependent, so that we are able to protect our natural resource base and the fragile eco-systems on our planet.

"Europe is using more than its fair share of resources, and reducing our consumption will also free more resources to increase the quality of life in the developing world. In addition, a more resource-efficient economy will be a competitive advantage for Europe as resource availability becomes more constrained in the future."

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Notes for editors

[1] 'Over consumption? Our use of the world's natural resources' has been written by Sustainable Europe Research Institute (SERI - http://www.seri.at) in Vienna and GLOBAL 2000 (Friends of the Earth Austria), in collaboration with Friends of the Earth England Wales and Northern Ireland (FOE EWNI).

The report (including a one page executive summary) is available from the link above.

[2] http://www.worldresourcesforum.org

[3] 'How to measure Europe's resource use. An analysis for Friends of the Earth Europe', SERI (for Friends of the Earth Europe), available online here.