Europe is the second biggest consumer of land in the world after the USA. Europe consumes roughly 640 million hectares a year – an area equivalent to 1.5 times the size of Europe itself. Moreover, Europe is the continent most dependent on imported land – with roughly 58 percent of land consumed coming from outside Europe, mainly from China, the Russian Federation, Brazil and Argentina. Europe is extremely dependent on land from outside its boundaries to maintain its consumption levels.
The average European citizen consumes 1.3 hectares of land a year, more than three times the amount of the average Chinese or Indian, and more than six times the average Bangladeshi. Global inequalities in land consumption lead directly to inequalities in health and quality of life.
Europe's huge land footprint is related to both our huge overall consumption of products, but also our rising consumption of products with large land footprints such as meat and dairy, and increasing demand for biofuels.
This increase in land demand is driving land-grabs, pushing up food prices, contributing to climate change and biodiversity loss, and exacerbating social inequalities.
Measuring global land demand is a crucial first step towards addressing these problems. Friends of the Earth Europe campaigns for the reduction of Europe's land footprint – the only way to start moving towards more sustainable ways of using such a finite resource.
We believe it's crucial that this land footprint indicator is integrated into overarching economic policies and impact assessments to ensure Europe gains the environmental, economic and social benefits of reducing pressure on the world's natural resources.