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Ecological Breakdown

National Responsibility for Ecological Breakdown

High-income countries, such as the United Kingdom and the United States, hold the overwhelming responsibility for global ecological breakdown. In our new study, published in The Lancet Planetary Health, we analyse 160 countries and quantify how much responsibility they bear for the ecological damage caused by excess use of materials — such as metals, minerals, fossil fuels and biomass — between 1970 and 2017.

We find that high-income nations are responsible for 74% of global resource overshoot, driven primarily by the USA (27%) and the EU-28 high-income countries (25%). These countries urgently need to reduce their levels of resource use — by over 70 per cent — to avoid further degradation and to live within their fair shares. China is responsible for 15% of global resource overshoot, and the rest of the Global South (i.e. the low-income and middle-income countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia) is responsible for only 8%.

Explore and compare national resource use with respect to fair shares using the interactive line charts below. Hover/tap within the chart to see indicator-specific values for that year.

National Resource Use with Respect to Fair Shares (Fair share = 1)

The data on this page are from our 2022 article National Responsibility for Ecological Breakdown: A Fair-shares Assessment of Resource Use. You can download the full country-level dataset used to render the charts above here, and you can also download the published article's Supplementary Information spreadsheet here. Please cite the following scientific journal article if using these results:

  • Hickel, J., O'Neill, D.W., Fanning, A.L., and Zoomkawala, H. (2022). National responsibility for ecological breakdown: a fair-shares assessment of resource use, 1970–2017. The Lancet Planetary Health 6(4): e342-e349.