Countdown to Earth Overshoot Day 2014 – High level event in European Parliament

10 July 2014 | News story

On 8 July 2014 GLOBE EU, together with partners from IUCN EU Representative Office, Global Footprint Network and Club of Rome organized the high-level event ‘Green Growth, Innovation and Finance’ to prepare for the Earth Overshoot Day - the day on which our societies have globally consumed the resources of our planet for one year.

The event saw speeches from a line-up of high-level speakers and gathered representatives from the European policy community, academia, international organizations, civil society and forward-looking businesses to discuss the opportunities for green growth, innovation, greening of the financial system, as well as how to enhance European competitiveness in an increasingly natural resource constraint world while moving towards the circular economy and sustainability.

GLOBE EU President Sirpa Pietikäinen (MEP) and Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy (MEP) chaired the event, which opened with a video greeting from the Commissioner for Environment Janez Potocnik.

The presentations centred around the question on how to develop and implement a long-term transformation to sustainable development. Guido Schmidt-Traub from the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UNSDSN) stressed the importance of establishing a clear pathway to reach the goals of sustainable development and that all actors from politics to business must join forces to achieve this. Sebastian Winkler (Global Footprint Network) elaborated the concepts of biocapacity and ecological footprint, emphasising that Earth Overshoot Day is moving earlier every year, and that the world’s global population currently consumes 1.5 planets a year. Sebastian stressed that turning resource trends around is important for economic recovery in Europe.

Private sector representatives including Rodney Irwin from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Patrick Oliva from Michelin and Rob Boogaard from Interface expressed their firm commitment to sustainability and presented business cases on green growth and innovation as well as ideas on how to further support the move towards the circular economy.

Kurt Vandenberghe and William Neale from the European Commission explored Europe’s possibilities to live within the boundaries of the planet by looking into the EU policies on circular economy, research and innovation. Kurt emphasised that the solution would not come from technology alone, nor markets alone, nor legislation alone. Instead, we need a systemic approach for smart innovation.

Luc Bas (IUCN) additionally highlighted the potential for sustainable nature-based solutions in creating prosperity in Europe. He emphasised that nature and sustainable ecosystem management can often provide are cost-effective solutions to global challenges such as climate change, while at the same time contributing to prosperity and job creation in Europe. Luc also highlighted the challenges of achieving a genuine circular economy, not only on material flows, but also in terms of energy usage, and in terms of stopping land degradation altogether.

The afternoon session focused on the essential role of the financial sector in the transition to the green economy. Nick Robins (UNEP Inquiry) stressed that aligning financial policy and sustainability was needed in order to tackle systemic failures and to build policy coherence, and highlighted the opportunities for the EU to build on existing work.

Author Graeme Maxton also reminded that debt induced economic growth is not sustainable and that jobs and living standards should be the first priority when trying to tackle environmental challenges.

The event was concluded with a screening of the documentary movie ‘Last Call by Enrico Cerasuolo (Italy/Norway 2013), which is based on the book The Limits to Growth.

More information and presentations of the event can be found on the GLOBE EU website.