The Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro is the place to be this week for those interested in global cooperation for a sustainable future. The Global Footprint Network team has been participating in Rio+20 events for the past two weeks. In particular, President Mathis Wackernagel, Research Scientist and Science Coordinator Kyle Gracey, and Director of External Affairs Kath Delaney have been engaged on the ground advancing our Ecological Footprint work.
We’ve rounded up a few of the highlights below.
To kick things off, Kyle participated in the Seventh Meeting of the UN Committee of Experts on Environmental-Economic Accounting (UNCEEA), providing an update on the Ecological Footprint methodology. He then joined Dr. Richard Mattison of Trucost (UK) and Dr. Ashok Kumar Chapagain of WWF-UK in a panel organized by Michael Becker of WWF-Brazil, to clarify for decision-makers the strengths and weaknesses of the “footprint family” of indicators known as Ecological Footprint, Water Footprint and Carbon Footprint.
The first public presentation of the Ecological Footprint of Sao Paulo was given last week, a recently completed project that was conducted with Global Footprint Network data, in collaboration with WWF-Brasil, EcosSistemas, and the governments of the state and the city of São Paulo. As the largest city in Latin America, Sao Paulo’s Footprint is instructive—one conclusion of the study was that if everyone lived like people in São Paulo city, 2.5 planets would be needed. A handful of national governments are adopting Footprint accounting, and now cities are beginning to use the tool to have a better understanding of their demands on natural resources. Last year, Campo Grande was the first Brazilian city to undertake the calculation and Global Footprint Network did a project with the city of Curitiba.
Kyle was a panelist at both Eye on Earth Summit’s New Funding Models for International Development and a session called Open Dialogue on The Future We Choose, organized by the Stockholm Resilience Centre and the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Global Sustainability, that emphasized a science-based approach to sustainable development.
On Thursday Kyle represented Global Footprint Network at a side event hosted by the Czech Republic called “Measuring a Green Economy: Insights into “Beyond GDP” Indicators.” He explained how Ecological Footprint accounting helps countries succeed in a resource-competitive world. Global Footprint Network has launched a project with UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative and leading financial institutions to investigate the links between ecological risk and sovereign credit ratings and bonds.
Our Ecological Footprint work was acknowledged with two significant honors this week in Rio de Janeiro. On Sunday, June 17, the Asahi Glass Foundation awarded the prestigious Blue Planet Prize to Mathis, along with Bill Rees, in recognition of their work in developing the Ecological Footprint tool. The award comes with $300,000, which is being donated by Mathis in its entirety to Global Footprint Network, to be used as matching funds to help advance Ecological Footprint accounting. National Geographic wrote an excellent article covering the ceremony and awardees, with Mathis being quoted in the lead paragraph, asking, “We’re facing a global storm, and the question is, is our boat ready?”
On Tuesday Wackernagel and Rees also received the Kenneth E. Boulding Award, the world’s top honor in the field of ecological economics, by the International Society for Ecological Economics (ISEE).
Jigmi Thinley, the Prime Minister of Bhutan, offered congratulatory remarks to Mathis and Bill, saying, “The Ecological Footprint is certainly one of the most important and influential measurement and communication tools of the century. I regularly use the Footprint results in my own statements, and indeed rely on that information to understand and communicate the devastating impact of current consumption patterns on the world’s limited resource base and to urge more sustainable policies. It is without question one of the most powerful ways to put the responsibility for sustainability firmly on all our shoulders through awareness of every resource we consume and every nuance of our behaviours and lifestyles.”
We would like to give a shout out to our friends at Fundacion AVINA for hosting a reception, giving people a chance to meet with Mathis personally and share each other’s work and experience.
In between sessions and presentations, Mathis, Kath, and Kyle have been furiously busy networking with participants, and giving interviews to media, such as UOL, the largest online news portal. UOL bought a Brazil Ecological Footprint calculator license for their website, which is live now, and posted an elegant infographic on Brazil’s Ecological Footprint, based on Global Footprint Network data and the Living Planet Report.
Surely the Global Footprint Network’s RIO+20 team deserves to dance a little samba and sip a little of Brazilian’s national cocktail, caipirinha, before they leave Rio.