Europe’s land demand creating inequalities

4 November 2013

Europe’s appetite for an ever-increasing amount of land is putting huge pressure on this finite resource as well as putting other nations’ development at stake, concludes a study published today.

The new discussion paper by the Sustainable Europe Research Institute for Friends of the Earth Europe shows that a small minority of the global population, mainly located in Europe and other developed countries, are consuming more much than their fair share of land.

Land is a limited resource and is vital for the production of most goods and materials that we consume. In Europe, we currently consume 640 million hectares of land annually, of which 58% is imported from outside Europe. In other words, we consume the equivalent of 1.5 times the size of the European continent every year.

Ariadna Rodrigo, resource use campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said: “Europe has been overconsuming land for too long. Other nations have the right to develop and their citizens to have a better quality of life, and for that they need access to land. Reducing our land demand is key to helping achieve a more equitable world and for protecting biodiversity.”

The paper examines the land requirements of a typical EU diet and reveals that if everybody in the world was to consume as much meat as the average European, we would need to use 80% of all arable land just for meat production.

Europe needs to reduce its ‘land footprint’. This is a measurement made up of the land consumed domestically within a country plus land imported within products such as food and clothing, minus the land which is used for exports.

Friends of the Earth Europe is calling for the EU to start using land footprint as a tool to measure our overall land consumption and to set reduction targets by 2014. The land footprint also needs to be used in impact assessments to ensure policies have been appropriately assessed for their potential impact on our land footprint. This exemplified by EU policies on agrofuels and the bioeconomy which have further increased our dependency on land.

Ariadna Rodrigo said: “The use of land to meet Europe’s insatiable consumption is harming communities and ecosystems and impairing the ability of other countries to develop. Europe must transform its approach to land by measuring its use, setting targets and then reducing our land footprint.”