World Wildlife Fund report highlights EU's green deficit

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Moving away from a fossil fuelled economy to renewable energy would be a key way of reducing Europe's over-use of the world's finite resources, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has told EU leaders. In the lead up to the European Council meeting in June when heads of state were due to endorse guiding principles on sustainable development, the WWF released its report "Europe 2005 -- The Ecological Footprint" which has a foreword by EC president José Manuel Barroso. The report warns that the environmental account of the 25 EU countries has plunged into the red, with Europeans now relying on the rest of the world's resources to make up their deficit. The Ecological Footprint measures a country's demand on nature. It calculates the total area needed to produce the food, fibre and energy they need, absorb their waste and the amount of biocapacity needed to absorb carbon dioxide from their burning of fossil fuels -- minus the amount absorbed by the oceans. Europe's footprint is 2.2 times as large as its own biological capacity, with the worst offenders being Sweden, Finland and Estonia, each using over 3.5 times the worldwide average amount of resources available per person. Only the United Arab Emirates, the US, Kuwait and Australia have a higher per capita demand. The European country with the highest footprint per person is Ireland. "Economic growth at the expense of depletion of natural resources and environmental degradation simply shifts the problem to other parts of the world," says Tony Long of the WWF. "The longer European leaders ignore the growing environmental deficit, the more expensive the investment required to correct it will be and the greater the risk that critical ecosystems will be eroded beyond the point at which they can easily recover."

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