Footprinting in California, Ecuador, and Kuwait
Highlights of California’s First Ecological Footprint Report
Did you know that Californians consume more than five times their state’s available ecological resources? Since the population’s resource demands have brought California into ecological deficit, we might have to re-consider California as the Land of Plenty.
In March 2013, Global Footprint Network and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Pacific Southwest Region published the Ecological Footprint for California (an interactive presentation is also online). It was not only the first major Ecological Footprint report at the U.S. state level, but also the first published in collaboration with a U.S. government agency. As part of EPA’s Framework for Sustainability Indicators project, the report aimed to quantify California’s resource demand against its supply. Such actionable information helps decision makers recognize resource dynamics as a significant driver of economic performance.
If California were a country, it would have the world’s 15th largest per capita Ecological Footprint (the United States is ranked fifth). California’s per capita Ecological Footprint is less than the nation’s as a whole mostly because of its lower per capita CO2 emissions. In California, the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB-32) encourages energy efficiency, mild weather reduces energy demand, and renewable energy sources such as hydropower exist. Yet CO2 emissions still account for 73 percent of California’s Ecological Footprint. Personal transportation contributes to a fourth of these emissions.
Yet California’s low per capita biocapacity is just one surprise the report discovered. Another is that its population consumes 35 percent less agricultural and fishery products than the national average.
The Ecological Footprint for California report also served as a technical exercise for Global Footprint Network to employ both bottom-up and top-down analyses in the same report—the first major test of both methodologies together. The bottom-up Ecological Footprint calculation combined the Ecological Footprint of all products consumed by California’s population, while the top-down Ecological Footprint calculation adjusted for relative differences between national and California consumption. Since the Ecological Footprints derived from each method matched so closely, Global Footprint Network’s upcoming “State of the States” project exploring New England’s Ecological Footprint will also incorporate both analyses.
Of course, the Ecological Footprint for California report highlights broader implications for the state. Because Californians consume more than five times their state’s available ecological resources, California depends on external biocapacity (an ecosystem’s ability to regenerate resources and absorb carbon dioxide emissions) to make up for its ecological deficit. As trading ecological resources becomes more expensive, managing state ecological resources will be crucial for mitigating risk.
But there is still opportunity to reverse trends and set the state’s course for a sustainable future. “As a global center of innovation,” the report says, “California has the ability to address this challenge.”
Ecuadorian Colleagues Undertake Footprint Technical Training
Global Footprint Network’s Oakland office hosted Ecuadorian colleagues (from left) Tamara Nacimba, Selene Défaz, Ana Karina Andrade, and Juan Carlos Baca Cabrera for a week of Ecological Footprint technical training in early May. To their right are members of Global Footprint Network’s Research & Standards team Elias Lazarus, Katsunori Iha, and Dharashree Panda.
Matrix algebra, IO table aggregation and oysters along a stretch of California seashore engaged members of Ecuador’s Planning Ministry and Environment Ministry during a recent week of technical training at Global Footprint Network’s Oakland office.
Though fifty years ago Ecuador’s ecological supply (biocapacity) vastly exceeded its population’s demand (Ecological Footprint), today’s situation is reverse. Determined to move out of ecological overshoot, in 2010 Ecuador became the first country to set a concrete Ecological Footprint target at a level within which its ecosystems can renew. Phase I involves updating Ecuador’s National Footprint Account (NFA) with national agencies’ data rather than international data.
Ecuadorian ministry representatives’ May visit to Global Footprint Network fulfilled three objectives: 1) data verification to ensure Ecological Footprint accuracy; 2) data interpretation to identify the calculations’ significance and potential changes; and 3) application to build a robust research agenda moving forward.
Through theoretical conversations and hands-on practical exercises, Global Footprint Network’s Research & Standards team immersed their Ecuadorian colleagues in the nitty-gritty details of the Ecological Footprint.
“We tailored the training to suit both ministries’ needs,” said Michael Borucke, Research Scientist at Global Footprint Network. “Adjusting to daily feedback made the training robust.”
Together they reviewed strategies to progress with Phase I, such as resolving their technical questions about forestry and fisheries data. Next the Ecuadorian team learned the framework of the Multi-Regional Input Output (MRIO) model that Global Footprint Network has developed for socioeconomic analyses. The bulk of the training focused on MRIO’s three results: 1) the consumption land use matrix that translates NFA results to sub-national results, particularly useful for Ecological Footprint analyses of Ecuador’s 24 provinces; 2) Ecological Footprint analysis by industry or sector, particularly useful for Ecuador to determine its tourism Ecological Footprint; and 3) in-depth trade analysis, particularly useful to track Ecuador’s supply chains.
“We had the opportunity to share with an excellent team that is really interested in working to preserve our planet,” said Selene Défaz, environmental engineer in the Environment Ministry.
The Ecuadorian ministry representatives set a research priority to complete Phase I by December 2013 with an accompanying technical paper. Many of their conversations centered on how to generate further academic research and communicate the value of Ecological Footprint accounting with colleagues in other Ecuadorian ministries.
Having gained such a solid understanding of how to bridge between both NFA and MRIO analyses, next year Ecuador will embark on Phase II, analyzing sub-national Ecological Footprints with the consumption land use matrix model.
This research, said Ana Karina Andrade, environmental engineer in the Environment Ministry, “will guide us so we can suggest some actions to reduce the Ecological Footprint of our country.”
Q&A with Mediterranean-MENA Regional Director Alessandro Galli
The Mediterranean region has nearly tripled its demand for ecological resources and services over the past five decades, and increased its ecological deficit by 230 percent. Global Footprint Network’s Mediterranean Initiative, launched in June 2010 with support of the MAVA Foundation, brings leaders together to develop a regional approach to managing ecological assets consumption and availability.
Last October, representatives of 12 nations attended a conference in Venice, Italy, where Global Footprint Network released its two-year investigation (Mediterranean Ecological Footprint Trends) into the link between the Mediterranean region’s ecological deficit and economic security.
Our Mediterranean-MENA Regional Director Alessandro Galli discusses how the Ecological Footprint has resonated in the region since, what’s next on the horizon for the Mediterranean Initiative, and new developments in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region.
Q: What key resource issues do Mediterranean countries face? How can the region’s decision-makers work collectively to manage resource consumption and natural capital to ensure a viable future?
The Mediterranean region’s access to essential ecological assets has never been as precarious as it is today. The region now uses approximately 2.5 times more natural resources and ecological services than its ecosystems can provide. When consumption exceeds local availability, countries either resort to depletion of local assets or turn to international trade in order to satisfy their demands. Mediterranean economies face a systemic risk due to the concurrence of ecological asset scarcity, price volatility, and the challenging financial situation many of them are in.
Venice conference participants indicated the need to shift from a silo approach to solving sustainability challenges to one that’s more collaborative between all decision makers, not just environmental ministers. The conference summary document highlights initial ideas to jumpstart this cross-cutting approach. France’s presidential mandate for a Transition Ecologique across all ministries is a great example of the needed, new systemic approach.
Q: The publication Mediterranean Ecological Footprint Trends wrapped the first phase of Global Footprint Network’s Mediterranean Initiative. What’s next on the horizon?
After the release of the full report and its key findings, Why Are Resource Limits Now Undermining Economic Performance? (see also the French and Arabic versions), Global Footprint Network decided to build on the interest generated by launching a three-year Mediterranean program. This second phase entails improving our analysis by engaging in research collaborations with think tanks, universities, NGOs, and national governments. At the regional level, we’ll continue to use the Ecological Footprint to support work with other Mediterranean-focused organizations to deepen our understanding of the socio-economic implications of resource overconsumption in the region. At the national level, we aim to start collaborations in Mediterranean countries that will seek to conduct in-depth country analysis, to assist decision-makers in developing science-based policies to reduce resource dependency and boost socio-economic well-being.
Q: What are the immediate next steps in Global Footprint Network’s Mediterranean-MENA engagement?
Integrating the notion of resource limitations into economic planning has resonated with multiple stakeholder groups. After the launch of Mediterranean Ecological Footprint Trends, Global Footprint Network was invited to present its analysis to Greek MPs and other Mediterranean legislators at the Special Permanent Committee on Environmental Protection of the Hellenic Parliament. Furthermore, in light of the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) report, Survival Options: Ecological Footprint of Arab Countries, which found that Kuwait has the world’s second highest per capita Ecological Footprint, Kuwait’s Environment Public Authority (EPA) launched its national Ecological Footprint initiative in early May.
Out of the many Solution Initiatives submitted to the MED Solutions Network at the University of Siena, our joint proposal with DESERTEC University Network was one of three selected for presentation at the MED Solutions Network’s first conference, Sustainable Development Solutions for the Mediterranean Region, at the University of Siena July 3-5, 2013. This is the first regional center of the newly formed United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UN SDSN) directed by Jeffrey Sachs of Earth Institute at Columbia University. Our solution, Sustainability Compass: Guide for Projects to Reduce Ecological Deficit and Improve Human Development, focuses on developing a framework to measure the sustainable development return on investment (SDROI) of any project. Through the engagement with the Med Solutions Network, we hope to participate in the regional debate on sustainable development, contribute to the framing of the Sustainable Development Goals and engage in new collaborations in the field of sustainable development solutions with other institutions interested in Mediterranean and global sustainability issues.
A round-up of other Footprint and sustainability news from across the globe.
Our Task, an independent, non-profit network of young adults, will honor Global Footprint Network with its 2013 Our Task Global Thinking Award at its July 27-28, 2013 Earth 2100 Conference. The U.N. Environment Programme and sustainability think tanks Worldwatch Institute and Earth Policy Institute will share the award.
Global Footprint Network Project Assistant Ingrid Heinrich (second from left) and Hassane Doumi, of Morocco’s Ministry of Energy, Mines, Water and the Environment (left), with members of the Moroccoan NGO AESVT Boujemaa Belhand (second from right) and Halima Boussadik (right) at the fifth environmental education Forum Planèt’ERE, held June 6-9 in Marrakech, Morocco. Ingrid discussed the Ecological Footprint at the conference, organized by the Organization of Francophone Countries and AESVT. Earlier this year in Amman, Jordan, Ingrid presented on Global Footprint Network’s Mediterranean Initiative to more than thirty Mediterranean region representatives at the seminar, Environment and Sustainable Development in the Mediterranean: The Role of the Civil Society. The European Commission sponsored the February 21-23 seminar as part of the EuroMed cooperation.
- Planetaire, promoter of the Sky Race World Cup, has achieved its Kickstarter campaign goal to fund the pilot program for the TV documentary “Wings Over Sweden.” The series intends to follow four sailplane pilots who aspire to represent Sweden in the elite Sky Race World Cup. Global Footprint Network is one of four environmental organizations selected to have its logo featured on one of the planes—powered by wind and solar energy—in the pilot program.
- The Worldwatch Institute’s annual flagship publication, State of the World 2013: Is Sustainability Still Possible? launched with a symposium held April 16, 2013 in Washington, D.C. William Rees, co-creator of the Ecological Footprint, and Jennie Moore, director of sustainable development and environmental stewardship in the School of Construction and the Environment at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, wrote the chapter, Getting to One-Planet Living.
- Also in April, Global Footprint Network Policy Analyst Martin Halle published an article about Environmental Risk in Sovereign Credits (E-RISC) methodology on the green economy coalition’s Knowledge Centre website. Martin’s article drew on the report, A New Angle on Sovereign Credit Risk, which Global Footprint Network published in collaboration with UNEP Finance Initiative last year as part of an initiative with leading financial institutions to integrate ecological risk into financial markets. Global Footprint Network participates in the green economy coalition’s financial systems and natural capital measurement working groups.
Earth 2100 Conference
George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia
Our Task, an independent, non-profit network of young adults, is hosting the second annual youth conference to bring Earth and its communities safely and sustainably to 2100 and beyond. Participants will learn what’s happening to the planet, create an alternative Youth Plan, and act to effect change in their lives and the lives of others. Our Task will honor Global Footprint Network, the U.N. Environment Programme and sustainability think tanks Worldwatch Institute and Earth Policy Institute with its 2013 Our Task Global Thinking Award.
World Forum on Natural Capital
The inaugural World Forum on Natural Capital will be the first major global conference devoted exclusively to turning the debate on natural capital accounting into action. It will build on the enormous private sector interest shown at the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio in June 2012. The Earth Summit launched the Natural Capital Declaration launched, a global finance-led initiative convened by the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative and the Global Canopy Programme.
Global Footprint Network needs more talented and dedicated people to lead our cutting edge programs. We are looking for leaders with a passion for global sustainability in a variety of capacities from research to project management. Please review the opportunities we have available and consider joining our team.
Associate, External Affairs (Oakland)
Senior Economist (Geneva)
Research Economist (Geneva)
Manager, Client Services (Oakland)
We’re also hiring fall interns:
Carbon Footprint Intern
Finance & Administrative Intern
Forestry Research Intern
Livestock Sustainability Intern
Fisheries/Aquatic Research Intern
Agriculture Research Intern
Geographic Data Research Intern
External Affairs Intern
Computable General Equilibrium Intern