Cut Europe’s Land Footprint!

A coalition of groups (1), including Slow Food, Friends of the Earth, ActionAid, Birdlife, Biofuelwatch, Compassion in World Farming and European Environment Bureau have united to call for European governments, and the EU as a whole, to reduce Europe’s land footprint – i.e. the amount of land it uses each year for food, textiles, wood, biofuels, etc. (2)

Research has shown that the EU is effectively ‘importing’ 1,212,050 square kilometres of agricultural land to meet its demand for food, textiles and biofuels (3). Even more land is used to produce forest products like paper and for mining minerals and fossil fuels.

This massive import of land is happening at the same time as land is under increasing pressure around the world, with the land grabbing phenomenon taking land away from local communities. In addition, the EU has made the problem worse by adopting ill-advised policies promoting biofuels and biomass burning.

The launch of this coalition comes as the EU is examining how to measure Europe’s resource use. We are pushing for land footprint, along with carbon footprint, water footprint and material use, to be the basis for this measurement. By measuring and managing Europe’s resource use we will be able to become more resource efficient; reducing waste, the cost of materials and creating jobs in resource efficient industries.

“The classic development model has produced dramatic consequences on the distribution of the planet’s resources,” said Piero Sardo, president of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity. “A system based on constant consumption of animal protein and uncontrolled waste is aberrant and is putting unsustainable pressure on the world’s water resources and fertile soils.”

“Today enough food is produced in the world to feed 12 billion people, but 40% of it becomes waste before even coming close to a table,” Sardo continued. “For years Slow Food has been committed to promoting a system of production, distribution and consumption that opposes waste and land grabbing (the acquisition of fertile lands at ridiculously low prices, mostly in the global south, that is threatening biodiversity, food sovereignty and the existence of local communities). We need rapid and incisive action at the community level and on the part of institutions, citizens and civil society.”

Individuals and organizations can also do their bit to reduce our land footprint, for example, through:
– avoiding food waste and reducing consumption of animal products (meat and dairy)
– reducing paper use and making sure the paper used is recycled
– making sure clothes are re-used or recycled instead of thrown out, and buying second hand clothes.

[1] The following groups and individuals have signed up to the land footprint coalition:

Friends of the Earth Europe

BirdLife Europe
Compassion in World Farming
Fred Pearce (author)
Dr Ian Fitzpatrick (researcher)
Kenya Debt Relief Network (KENDREN)
Land Magazine
The Land is Ours
London Mining Network
/ Colombia Solidarity Campaign
ONG Mani Tese
Slow Food
UK Food Group
Les Amis de la Terre France (Friends of the Earth France)
Friends of the Earth Cyprus
Amigos de la Tierra España (Friends of the Earth Spain)
Magyar Természetvédők Szövetsége (Friends of the Earth Hungary)
NOAH (Friends of the Earth Denmark)
Hnuti Doha (Friends of the Earth Czech Republic)
Friends of the Earth (England, Wales and Northern Ireland)

[2] The land footprint coalition statement is as follows:

We call on European countries, and the EU, to:
1) Measure and publicly report on their land footprint, along with their use of other key resources – water footprint, carbon footprint and overall material use.
2) Set targets to reduce their land footprint and other resource use towards sustainable and equitable levels.
3) Create policies to reduce their land footprint, whilst also reducing other resource use, for example through cutting food waste, and changing diets by reducing significantly the consumption of animal products in high consuming populations.
4) Require large companies registered in the EU to publicly report on their land footprint in the context of their overall resource efficiency reporting, and their strategies for reducing this footprint whilst also reducing other resource use.
5) Examine all relevant existing and new policies to identify how they can be modified in order to reduce Europe’s land footprint and other resource use, for example policies on renewable energy, biofuels and agriculture.
6) Promote good stewardship of land and livestock, and sustainable farming to protect the planet and its resources.
7) Protect customary and traditional land rights, and promote fair and transparent land governance and genuine land reform around the world.
8) Put in place measures to curb the financing of land grabs through policies that apply to both large scale investments and financial speculation on land.

[3] ‘Hidden impacts: How Europe’s resource overconsumption promotes global land conflicts’, Sustainable Europe Research Institute for Friends of the Earth, March 2013.

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