EU Overshoot day already here – “Unsustainable and irresponsible”

317 civil society organisations urge EU leaders to tackle the nature, climate and pollution crises following the upcoming EU elections


3 May 2024 – Brussels.  Today marks the EU’s overshoot day. This means that if all the people around the world mirrored the consumption patterns of the EU, humanity would exhaust the planet’s natural resources available for the year by May 3rd. [1]

On this occasion, 317 civil society organisations are in an open letter[2] calling on the heads of states and governments, the Presidents of the EU Commission, Council and Parliament, as well as Members of the EU Parliament to make a political commitment to work towards a climate-neutral, zero-pollution, and nature-positive economy. This follows the unprecedented and disturbing amount of backtracking from politicians in recent months, as green policies are being instrumentalised for short-term electoral gains and populism.

Specifically, civil society calls for:

  •     Deepening and accelerating the Green Deal, by fully implementing recently agreed goals and addressing ambition gaps on nature, climate as well as pollution
  •     Radically increasing public climate, environment and social investments
  •     Strengthening EU governance, democracy and the effective participation of civil society.

Our societies and economies are supported by what nature provides – food, water, fibre, timber, carbon absorption, and land to build infrastructure. And even though the EU accounts for less than 6% of the world’s population, uses more than 16% of our planet’s entire biocapacity. We would need 3 planets to satisfy our demand if everyone on Earth lived like Europe’s residents. This is not only unsustainable or irresponsible, it puts the EU’s long-term prosperity at risk.

The consequences of our ecological overshoot include global deforestation, biodiversity loss, collapse of fish stocks, water scarcity and pollution, soil erosion, air pollution, and climate change, leading to more frequent extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, and wildfires. This concerns us all, as Europe is set to suffer temperature increases double that of other continents due to climate change. Resource overexploitation leads to violence, poverty and poor governance, thereby also threatening global peace and security.

With the upcoming EU elections, decision-makers have the momentous opportunity and responsibility to turn the tide. Only by making the triple planetary crises of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution top political priorities, can the EU pull its weight and ensure the survival of our planet.

Anouk Puymartin, Policy Manager, BirdLife Europe:
“Farmers stand on the frontline of climate chaos and ecosystem collapse, facing water shortages, soil erosion, and extreme weather events. We cannot avoid climate breakdown without a massive reduction in farming emissions, restoring carbon stocks, and embracing ecologically sound practices across all farms. But farming in the EU is held hostage by regressive farm unions and wimpish politicians. What we urgently need is a sweeping overhaul of our food system that supports healthy diets respecting planetary boundaries, and decision-makers who are bold enough to break the status quo. European citizens must be loud in their support for this transformation through their votes in the EU elections, because without nature, there are no farmers, and without farmers, there is no food.”

Chiara Martinelli, Director, Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe:
“EU overshoot day is a distress signal that should reverberate through the corridors of power. The EU has a moral imperative to keep climate ambition high on its path towards neutrality, and there is no time for regulatory pauses. Polluters must be made to pay now and investments must already be made to ensure that communities, especially those most vulnerable, sit at the very core of the much-needed energy transition.”

Faustine Bas-Defossez, Director of Health, Nature and Environment, European Environmental Bureau:
“Today’s stark reminder: With every crashing wave, we witness not just the beauty of nature but also the ominous release of PFAS into our air, our water, and our lives. These ‘forever chemicals’ now pose an existential risk to our own and our families’ survival and the legacy we leave for our children. Ahead of the EU elections, we hold the power to demand change. Our votes can protect our health and future. Let’s turn the tide against these toxins and safeguard our world.”

William Todts, Executive Director at Transport & Environment:
Today, alarm bells are ringing. With a finite planetary budget, Europe needs to urgently shift towards a sustainable and resource-efficient transport and energy system – a pivotal opportunity for Europe’s green and clean tech businesses. What is missing from the EU Green Deal is a climate-industrial investment plan that is big and ambitious. This has to be a priority in the next EU term if we are to foster a thriving market that will deliver on clean tech, clean materials and clean energy deployment rapidly and at scale.”

Ester Asin, Director at WWF European Policy Office:
“We are living as if we have another planet to go to. Everywhere, rivers are drying up, forests are burning, and floods are wiping out communities. These are not distant warnings; they are current disasters – and the EU is complicit. Every day, the cost of inaction and overuse of resources mounts. It is time to face the reality of climate change and realise that nature is our best ally. EU leaders must protect and restore it – our very survival depends on it.”


[1] Country overshoot days 2024, as calculated by the Global Footprint Network: 

[2] The open letter, signed by 317 civil society organisations, is available to read here: 


Additional resources:
In the upcoming European Elections, citizens will have to make an important choice that will affect their lives for years to come. To ensure they can make an informed decision, NGOs have prepared: 

For more information please contact:

Global Footprint Network

Honey Kohan, Communications Manager, BirdLife Europe
+32 483 55 95 43

Christian Skrivervik, Communications Lead, European Environmental Bureau
+32 496 54 20 98

Who is behind Earth Overshoot Day?

Global Footprint Network is an international sustainability organization that is helping the world thrive within the Earth’s means and respond to climate change. Since 2003 we’ve engaged with more than 60 countries, 40 cities, and 70 global partners to deliver scientific insights that have driven high-impact policy and investment decisions. Together, we’re creating a future where all of us can thrive within the limits of our one planet.

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Additional Resources