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Issue 51, May 18, 2016  

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About Global Footprint Network
Our mission is to promote a sustainable economy by advancing the Ecological Footprint, a measurement tool that makes the reality of planetary limits relevant to decision-makers.

Advisory Council
E.O. Wilson
Manfred Max-Neef
Rhodri Morgan
David Suzuki
Emil Salim
Julia Marton-Lefèvre
William E. Rees
Lester Brown
Jorgen Randers
M S Swaminathan
Daniel Pauly
Eric Garcetti
Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker
Michael Meacher
Karl-Henrik Robèrt
Will Steffen
Dominique Voynet
Fabio Feldman
Oscar Arias
Peter Raven
Mick Bourke
Norman Myers
Gus Speth
Stephen Groff
Thomas E. Lovejoy

Food Shocks: How environmental risks could affect a country’s economy

What happens when increasing populations and incomes lead to higher demand for resource-intensive food while climate change and resource scarcity disrupt food supply? A new report released today by Global Footprint Network and the UNEP Finance Initiative finds that this growing imbalance of food demand and supply will lead to higher food prices and food price volatility, ultimately resulting in material impacts on national economies.

If global food prices double, then China could lose $161 billion in GDP and India could lose $49 billion, according to the new report, titled ERISC Phase II: How food prices link environmental constraints to sovereign credit risk.

The report models the impact of a global food price shock on 110 countries to assess which countries face the greatest economic risk from the growing imbalance between food supply and demand. It summarizes the results in a ranking of countries according to impact on GDP.

The report will be launched later today (May 18) at an event at the London offices of S&P Global Ratings, a partner in the project.

In terms of the highest percentage loss to GDP, the five countries that will be worst hit if food commodity prices double are all in Africa – Benin, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal and Ghana. But China will see the most total amount of money wiped from its GDP of any country – $161 billion, equivalent to the total GDP of New Zealand. India will see the second highest loss to GDP – $49 billion, equivalent to the total GDP of Croatia. Globally, such negative effects of a food price shock massively outweigh positive effects in absolute terms. The highest positive effect on GDP in absolute terms, seen in the United States, is only $3 billion –50 times smaller than the impact on China.

The report finds that countries with higher credit ratings tend to be less exposed to economic risks resulting from a food price spike. In addition, countries whose populations have the highest consumption of natural resources and services, and are therefore most responsible for the environmental constraints that make future food prices higher and more volatile, tend to face the lowest risk exposure.

"As this latest research shows, disruptions to our food system represent a substantial environmental risk that both investors and governments may be largely overlooking but would be well-served to prepare for." said Susan Burns, co-founder of Global Footprint Network and director of its Finance for Change Initiative. "It’s important to highlight that the countries responsible for the pressure in the global food system are not the ones hurt by it. In order to reduce the pressure, high income countries can focus on the sustainability of their own food production and consumption."

The ERISC Phase II report was published in collaboration with Cambridge Econometrics and Caisse des Dépôts, First State Investments, HSBC, Kempen Capital Management, KfW, and S&P Global Ratings.

For more details, visit our new Finance for Change website to read a press release or download the full ERISC Phase II report.

More Finance for Change News

Earlier this month Global Footprint Network became a proud signatory of the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), indicating our support for six principles for incorporating ESG (environmental, social and governance) issues into investment practice. The principles were developed under the leadership of PRI, the world’s leading proponent of responsible investment, which initially began as a United Nations-supported initiative to contribute toward the goal of building a more sustainable global financial system.

PRI is currently urging investors to support a call for credit rating agencies to incorporate ESG (environmental, social and governance) factors into their credit analysis in a more systematic and transparent way. PRI is drumming up support for the campaign by asking investors and credit rating agencies alike to sign a Statement on ESG in Credit Ratings. PRI then plans to bring investors, credit rating agencies and other stakeholders together to craft practical solutions for more systematic and transparent incorporation of ESG in credit ratings and analysis. For more information, visit

Switzerland at a Crossroads: Energy

We were thrilled by the success of our first ‘Switzerland at a Crossroads’ workshop on May 10, 2016, where 50 energy experts engaged in group discussions about Switzerland’s future energy supply.

Our aim was to encourage participants to consider other stakeholders’ viewpoints so they could realize there is more than just one possible way to envision an energy system following the Paris climate agreement, in which 195 countries and the European Union committed to limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. All agreed on one important point at least: Great as it may be, the challenges are nevertheless manageable.

Participants gamely roleplayed their contributions to the discussions as if they were politicians, economists or scientists. This led to a rich variety of ideas about how to keep Switzerland’s energy supply "energized."

We held a second workshop yesterday in Bern, this one focused on food. We will share more details about both workshops in a future blog post. More information can be found here in German and French.

Participants in the energy workshop included Bruno Oberle, former head of the Swiss Ministry for Environment – BAFU, pictured above left with a pink shirt over his shoulders.

Can You Guess This Country?

On 3 May, this country busted its annual ecological budget—its citizens' demand for food, wood and carbon dioxide absorption will begin to exceed what the country's ecosystems can renew over the full year. Trade is a fact of life in our globalized economy, but just as a trade deficit can be a risk, so can an ecological deficit.

With its historic cities and sunny beaches, this country is one of the top tourist destinations in Europe. In addition, its location makes for an important resting spot for migratory birds. The interior of the country is a high and dry plateau surrounded by mountain ranges.

Now, can you identify this nation?

Find the answer by clicking here.