Meat production behind EU’s highest ecological footprint

According to data from the WWF‘s bi-annual Living Planet Report, Denmark has the world’s fourth largest ecological footprint and the largest in Europe. The three largest footprints belong to Qatar, Kuwait and The United Arab Emirates – while the United States of America has the fifth largest footprint.

The main contributor to the Danish ecological footprint is meat production and meat consumption. According to Gemma Cranston of the Global Footprint Network – the organisation which calculates the ecological footprint, the main reason the ecological footprint is so high is that a lot of land outside Denmark is required to produce animal feed (see yesterday’s article on the Amazon).

Fighting for resources

In reality, we are fighting with our own production animals about the available resources”, says Joachim Kjeldsen of Organic Denmark. “To produce a kilo of beef, we use seven times as many calories than we get from the beef – and there is no natural law saying that Denmark should produce 25 mio pigs per year”. Organic Denmark points to diet changes towards a larger share of vegetable proteins in the whole industrialised world as one of the solutions to the ecological crisis.

Organic Denmark suggests that an LCA – a Life Cycle Assessment – of the Danish import of protein feed and the associated consumption of fertilizer and fossile fuels should be carried out. Furthermore, the Danish production of animal products for exports should be evaluated in relation to global sustainability issues and health demands.

Furthermore, Organic Denmark suggests that the CAP should be used as a driver for greening initiatives and green growth. Subsidies should be given to initiatives that result in public goods, such as climate improvement or protection of the environment and fresh water resources. The subsidies should be given to both organic and non-organic producers alike.

Ecological Footprint

The Ecological Footprint is a measure of our consumption of natural resources. The footprint is measured in global hectares (gha) per person and sums up the area required to produce the resources we consume, the area occupied by infrastructure and the area of forest required for sequestering the CO2 that is not absorbed by the oceans. Even though the forest areas required to sequester Danish CO2-emissions has dropped from 3.53 to 2.54 gha per person since 2008, Denmark’s ecological footprint has risen by 0.25 gha per person in the same period.

When compared to the earth’s biocapacity – it’s ability to restore resources – the footprint gives an impression of the relative sustainability of individual nations and the world. According to the 2012 Living Planet Report, the world average ecological footprint was 2.7 gha per person – twice as much as the world average biocapacity of 1.8 gha per person. Denmark’s ecological footprint is 8.25 gha per person, 4.5 times higher than the average world biocapacity.