The EU’s Eighth Environment Action Programme (8th EAP) calls for a significant reduction in the EU’s consumption footprint, to bring it within planetary boundaries. The consumption footprint refers to the environmental and climate impacts resulting from the consumption by EU citizens of goods and services, whether produced within or outside the EU. To monitor the EU’s consumption footprint, this indicator uses a single score that represents all types of impacts on the environment and climate caused by consumption of goods and services by EU citizens. Overall, the EU’s consumption footprint is considered high, as it exceeds the planetary boundaries for several types of impact, such as impacts on climate change and land use. In the period 2010-2020, it decreased slightly, by around 4%. However, this overall trend resulted from a substantial decrease between 2010 and 2016 (-14%) followed by an increase between 2016 and 2020 (+11%).
The economic sectors mining and quarrying (encompassing all activities used to extract and process raw materials), agriculture and manufacturing together account for about 80% of the total footprint score. All sectoral footprints decreased between 2010 and 2020, except for the footprints for agriculture and manufacturing, and all decreased between 2010 and 2016 then increased from 2016.
Given the relatively small overall reduction in the consumption footprint in the last decade and the fact that the footprint has in fact increased since 2016, the EU faces a significant challenge in achieving its aim of significantly reducing the consumption footprint by 2030. At present, it is unclear whether this aim will be achievable.
To reduce the consumption footprint, the EU would need to make significant efforts to reduce its overall consumption of goods and services or to shift to the consumption of goods and services that have a lower impact on the environment, or both. In general, consuming services has less of an impact on the environment than consuming physical products. Therefore, promoting circular business models based on sharing or product-as-a-service schemes could help to reduce the consumption footprint.