Quantification of the Environmental Space

By definition, 'environmental space' of each person on Earth is their 'share' of 'resources' and 'services' provided by the Earth. Hence, the 'environmental space' of each of the world citizens can be quantified by calculating the amount of resources and services per head of the population. However, due to limited knowledge on the availability, and the level of sustainable use, of all resources and services that the Earth can produce, 'environmental space' can only be quantified partially.

Environmental space depends on the availability of each resource which can be used sustainably and the number of people who have a share in it. Therefore, the environmental space of each person is not fixed. It also varies from region to region due to the uneven distribution of resources and population over the world.

Many countries quantified their environmental space, in particular in Europe. In 1993, the Friends of the Earth International started their Sustainable Societies Program campaign, which advocated for the ''fair share of environmental space.'' By 1997, the campaign included 32 European countries and 20 other countries from the rest of the world. They used the 'environmental space' concept to develop a national action plan. More research was undertaken in Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan,

Table 1 Environmental space for major resources in the EU in 2050


EU environmental space (2050)

EU present use per capita (2001)

CO2 emission



Total primary




(GJ acre-1)

Fossil fuel







35 GJ acre-1

8.03 GJ acre-1


1.2 kg acre-1


Pig iron

36 kg

273 kg

Protected sites

0.061 ha



0.138 ha

1.4 ha

Arable land

0.1 ha

0.41 ha

Wood (WRME)

0.56 m3 acre-1

1.08 m3acre-1

(excluded fuel


10655 m3

581 m3

Water use

and the United States into their environmental space to establish concrete indicators of environmental space in these countries.

In 1997, the European Environmental Agency commissioned a study on the implication of the concept of environmental space on policies, environmental reporting, and assessments in Europe. It suggested that to move toward sustainability in Europe, the concept of environmental space can be useful as it provides guidance indicators for policy formulation and implementation. However, more in-depth studies should define the indicators that can be used effectively.

In 1999, the Friends of the Earth UK published Tomorrow!s World in which the concept of environmental space was used to identify targets that the UK should meet to ensure sustainable development. To set these targets for UK, they used the assumption of the stable world population of 9.8 billion in 2050. They equally selected eight specific environmental resources (energy, land, timber, water, aluminium, steel, construction aggregates, and chlorine) that are considered to cover the main inputs of the global economy. The targets were calculated for each of the resources.

The environmental space of a modal European citizen for 2050 was estimated for core resources, such as total primary energy, timber, major metals, and agricultural land (Table 1).

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