By Martin Banks - 10th October 2011
A new report says that Europe's 'land footprint' is one of the largest in the world and the continent is more dependent on land from outside its borders than any other.
The new research published on Monday shows that Europe's high consumption levels, and "insatiable appetite" for meat, dairy, wood and other products that require large areas of land, mean Europe's 'land footprint' is one of the highest in the world.
Europe uses 640 million hectares of land a year, the equivalent of 1.5 times its own area in land.
The EU average land consumption is 1.3 hectares per capita, while countries such as China and India use less than 0.4 hectares per capita.
The study was carried out by Friends of the Earth Europe and the Sustainable Europe Research Institute.
They measured flows of 'virtual land' around the world, in order to calculate land footprints for a large number of countries and regions.
Ariadna Rodrigo, resource use campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, said, "Overconsumption in Europe is making the continent extremely dependent on land from outside its boundaries.
"This dependency on imported land is contributing to climate change and biodiversity loss. It's also having massive social impacts, including exacerbating land-grabbing and land rights violations."
Almost 60 per cent of the land consumed in Europe is "imported", which FoEE says this means that Europe uses land equivalent to 10 times the size of Germany from other parts of the world.
Germany, UK, Italy, France, the Netherlands and Spain are all in the top ten most land import dependent countries in the world, with Germany and the UK each importing almost 80 million hectares a year.
Rodrigo added, "In order to reduce our land consumption and stop the harm we're doing to other parts of the world, we need the EU to start measuring its land footprint now, and to start working out how to reduce our land use.
"Cutting Europe's land use means focusing on quality of life rather than continuing to over-consume products."
In September, the European commission acknowledged the need to address Europe's land consumption but has not yet been specific about how this should be achieved.
The commission is proposing a two-year discussion on resource use measurement and targets and Friends of the Earth Europe says it is "clear Europe’s land footprint must be reduced, and that targets should be set to achieve this".