Footprint for Nations
In today’s world, where humanity is already exceeding planetary limits, ecological assets are becoming more critical. Each country has its own ecological risk profile: Many are running ecological deficits, with Footprints larger than their own biological capacity. Others depend heavily on resources from elsewhere, which are under increasing pressure.
In some areas of the world, the implications of ecological deficits can be devastating, leading to resource loss, ecosystem collapse, debt, poverty, famine and war.
The Ecological Footprint is a resource accounting tool that helps countries understand their ecological budget and gives them the data necessary to manage their resources and secure their future.
National governments using the Footprint are able to:
- Assess the value of their country’s ecological assets
- Monitor and manage their assets
- Identify the risks associated with ecological deficits
- Set policy that is informed by ecological reality and makes safeguarding resources a top priority
- Measure progress toward their goals
It is almost certainly the case that countries and regions with surplus ecological reserves—not the ones relying on continued ecological deficit spending—will emerge as the robust and sustainable economies and societies of the future.
Ecological Debtors and Creditors
Today, more than 80 percent of the world’s population lives in countries that use more resources than what is renewably available within their own borders. These countries rely for their needs on resource surpluses concentrated in ecological creditor countries, which use less biocapacity than they have. By comparison, in 1961, the vast majority of countries around the globe had ecological surpluses. Those numbers have slowly dwindled; meanwhile, the pressure on the remaining biocapacity reserves continues to grow.
As resource pressures escalate, ecological wealth will play an increasing role in determining countries’ competitiveness and its citizens’ ability to lead secure, rewarding lives. Through collaboration, countries can better secure the value of their natural resources and build incentives for maintaining those assets, a benefit to both their own citizens and to the global economy that relies upon these resources.
Is the Ecological Creditor/Debtor Framework Anti-trade?
In a globalized economy, trade is a fact of life. Though we’ve introduced the concept of ecological creditors and debtors, we do not mean to imply, by comparing a population’s consumption with its own biocapacity that countries "should" consume within their own borders and not engage in global trade. But just as a trade deficit can be a liability, so can a biocapacity deficit – in particular if, or because of, that deficit, a country finds itself at risk of depleting its own natural capital, incurring higher costs for importing resources from elsewhere, or facing costs for emitting CO2 into the global commons.
Our ecological creditor and debtor framework seeks not to discourage trade but, rather, to enable countries to see the benefit in reducing their resource dependence on the one hand, and increasing or maintaining ecological reserves on the other.
*National Footprint Account (NFA) results from the 2015 edition are available for licensing. For more information on available licenses, click here. For non-commercial, educational use only, we now offer free access to a new Public Data Package, which includes latest per capita Ecological Footprint and biocapacity results for 182 countries. Time series data for all nations is not available