The UN children's organization UNICEF makes a simple calculation: If the entire world were to consume as many resources as the EU and OECD countries, more than three earths would be needed to make it enough. The USA, Canada and Luxembourg fare particularly poorly.
According to a UNICEF report, children in the richest countries in the world grow up in a relatively healthy environment, but at the same time the majority of these countries contribute disproportionately to global environmental degradation. If all people consumed as much as the population in the EU and OECD countries examined, 3.3 planets like Earth would be necessary, conclude the scientists from the UNICEF research center Innocenti.
For example, if every person were to consume as many resources as the inhabitants of Canada, Luxembourg and the USA, at least five Earths would be required, UNICEF said in Cologne. In Germany, too, the consumption of resources is too high: on a global scale, 2.9 earths are needed for the way of life of the Germans.
Data from 39 countries in the OECD and the European Union were collected for the UNICEF report. The researchers wanted to find out how well each country managed to create a healthy, child-friendly environment. At the same time, however, the associated ecological footprint was also checked, such as the country's share in climate change, resource consumption and the production of electronic waste.
At the top of the country comparison that came about in this way are Spain, Ireland and Portugal. In comparison, these three countries provide a good environment for the children living there and contribute less to global environmental problems. Germany is 9th in the top third of the ranking.
Some of the world's wealthiest countries - including Australia, Belgium, Canada and the US - have reportedly had a serious impact on the global environment in terms of carbon emissions, e-waste production and resource use per capita. At the same time, they are at the bottom of the international comparison when it comes to creating a healthy environment for their own children. So they do particularly poorly.
"The majority of rich countries fail to provide a healthy environment for all children within their borders, and they also contribute to the destruction of children's habitats in other parts of the world," concludes Gunilla Olsson, director of Innocenti. "In some cases, we find that countries that provide relatively healthy environments for children at home are also among the largest producers of pollutants that destroy children's environments in other countries."