Swiss Overshoot Day 2022:
May 13th

Using 4.4-fold its own biocapacity, the Swiss economy is poorly prepared for the predictable future of climate change and resource constraints, despite many available options. Looking at the trends demonstrates that Switzerland is not committed to securing its future ability to operate.

The future has never been more predictable. We know that people will want to eat and sleep. They also want to be mobile, feel safe, and have fun. In addition, it is evident that we will live in a world with more climate change and more resource constraints. This is true in every imaginable scenario. Resource security is turning into a central parameter of economic strength. The war in Ukraine and the resource disruptions it causes serves as an illustration.

All of us will have to function without fossil fuel, whether we like it or not. The question is “by when?”. A rapid energy and resource transition will reward the world with less extreme climate change and the actor with a far more robust resource situation. Just consider that, today, Switzerland consumes 4.4 times more than its own ecosystems can regenerate. In contrast, a slow phase-out of fossil energy increases the risk of increased stranded assets, global tensions, and political unrest. Food security thus also becomes more critical, with direct implications for Switzerland’s globally integrated economy.

Those who delay their own energy and resource transition expose themselves to increasingly large and uneven risks. Inequalities grow between those who prepare wisely and build resilience, and those who wait, weakening themselves. Those who fail to embrace change will fall behind. It is a double risk, as they will be fragile in an increasingly fragile world. “It is unclear whether Switzerland has the resolve to prepare itself adequately for the predictable future of climate change and resource constraints, particularly after the CO2 law was rejected just a year ago” said Mathis Wackernagel, president of Global Footprint Network. “While good efforts exist in Switzerland such as boosting thermal efficiency of houses or using electricity from hydropower, the country overall is still far from being planet compatible. The gap keeps being immense.”

Of Switzerland’s overall demand, food consumption alone requires the capacity of more than one entire Switzerland. The same amount is needed to maintain Swiss mobility. 77% of the biological resource requirement of the Swiss comes from abroad. Housing requires about 1/6th of the entire demand. contributing significantly to the overall resource demand of economies.  Therefore, we have partnered with Eberhard, a construction company, who is leading in new ways to reduce the impact of building materials. Patrick Eberhard, CEO of that company, emphasizes that “infrastructure has tremendous lock-in effects. For the better or the worse. Therefore, getting construction right is a big piece of the puzzle.”

Cities, companies or countries that fail to prepare for the foreseeable future will be largely disadvantaged. Acting fast, while also getting it right, will become increasingly essential as the physical infrastructure of cities and companies can only be adapted slowly, slower than the resource-constrained future is descending upon us. How is Switzerland positioned? What are our options?

The figure above charts the number of Switzerlands needed to support Switzerland’s resident’s annual resource consumption against the number of Earths needed if all people lived like residents of Switzerland.

One thing is obvious. The speed and scale at which Switzerland is transforming its economy keeps eroding Switzerland’s longer-term prospects.

Additional Resources

About ecological footprints

The Ecological Footprint is the most comprehensive biological resource accounting metric available. It adds up all of people’s competing demands for biologically productive areas – food, timber, fibers, carbon sequestration, and accommodation of infrastructure. Currently, carbon emissions from burning fossil fuel make up 60 percent of humanity’s Ecological Footprint.

About ecological overshoot

Since the early 1970s, humanity has been in an ecological deficit. While Switzerland’s biocapacity per person is 36% smaller than the world’s, its Ecological Footprint per inhabitant is about three times as large. The overload cannot continue forever. The effects of this global ecological overshoot can already be observed in the form of deforestation, soil erosion, loss of biodiversity and the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Running an ecological deficit means that we are not only consuming the annual “interest” on our natural capital, but also depleting it by taking resources from the future to pay for the present. Operating on the ecological advances of future generations is obviously not a successful long-term strategy.

About Global Footprint Network

Global Footprint Network is an international sustainability organisation that is helping the world live within the Earth’s means and respond to climate change. Since 2003 we’ve engaged with more than 50 countries, 30 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.

About the Food4Future project

Food4Future is a collaborative project by Global Footprint Network, the Circular Food Systems team within the Farming Systems Ecology group at Wageningen University & Research (, and the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL). The project aims to explore how to make the food system one-planet compatible by taking us closer to new ways of feeding the world’s population while safeguarding the planet. We do this by combining our scientific prowess with our power to engage key stakeholders and decision-makers. Food4Future is generously supported by the Stiftung AVINA.

Media Contacts

Dr. Marta Antonelli
+41 78 656 2844

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