Europe must reduce its use of world’s land

24 January 2014

Response to United Nations International Resource Panel report on land

A report published today by the United Nations International Resource Panel highlights how global land consumption is unsustainable in a world of finite resources. [1] The findings echo research by Friends of the Earth Europe on Europe's global land footprint. [2]

Increasing demand for limited land – to grow food, to produce energy and wood, and to expand our cities – is causing land grabbing, deforestation, biodiversity loss, climate change and local community displacement.

Today's report shows how Europe is consuming more than its fair share of land, at the expense of other world regions, and suggests that Europe needs to reduce its consumption of cropland by around a third. [3]

According to the authors, competition for land is likely to increase further in the future, leading to more deforestation and habitat loss and intensifying negative environmental and social impacts..

Commenting on today's UN report, Ariadna Rodrigo, resource use campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said: "It's good that the UN is stressing the seriousness of this issue and it's no surprise that the amount of land we use around the world just isn't sustainable. We are adding to destruction of wildlife and high food prices for the poor. Cutting our land footprint will have positive benefits for the environment, economy and broader society."

Friends of the Earth Europe believes it is urgent that Europe and other high-consuming world regions reduce their land consumption. This must mean no expansion of land for biofuels or biomass, as well as reducing Europe's consumption of meat and dairy products.

Ariadna Rodrigo continued: "Europe urgently needs to start taking the issue of land seriously by starting to measure Europe's landfootprint, setting EU-wide reduction targets, and putting in place policies that will reduce our land consumption."

In its 2011 'Resource Efficiency Roadmap',[4] the European Commission committed to agree a land reduction target, along with carbon, water and material targets, by 2013. But this objective has become bogged down in obscure, academic debate on statistics.

The European Commission is currently preparing a package of measures on resource efficiency and the circular economy, due for publication in the spring. Friends of the Earth Europe believes that these measures must include a commitment to measure and reduce the EU's land footprint, and to use land footprint in impact assessments of new policies so that they do not result in an increase of the continent's land consumption.


[1] Assessing Global Land Use: Balancing Consumption with Sustainable Supply, downloadable from:

[2] Europe's Global Land Demand, October 2011

[3] Page 71 of the report: "Regarding cropland, the EU-27 required 0.31 ha per person of cropland worldwide, which is one-fourth more than what is available domestically (Figure 4.4). This is also one-third more than the globally available per person cropland of the world population in 2007. The EU ́s consumption, thus, already uses an above- average amount of global cropland. If one accepts the suggestion that the global expansion of cropland should be halted by 2020 to stop the further loss of biodiversity a safer operating level would be around 0.20 ha per person (see section 4.2). Instead of increasing its land use abroad for supplying its own consumption, the EU would then need to work on decreasing it."