Footprint Network Blog

Building with nature in mind: New economic decision tools for climate change and natural disasters

02/04/2016 07:49 AM

If an acre of forest burns up in flames, what’s the cost? Zero, was FEMA’s reply in 2013. The Federal Emergency Management Agency rejected California’s request for a federal “major disaster” declaration and funding after the devastating Rim Fire, because it only knew how to put a price tag on man-made structures. The 400 square miles of forests that had been reduced to ashes and charred stumps—including part of Yosemite National Park—couldn’t translate into dollar amounts.

How times have changed. Two weeks ago, the state of California was named one of the 13 winners of the National Disaster Resilience Competition by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Rockefeller Foundation. California won more than $70 million to help fund several disaster preparedness projects in communities affected by the Rim Fire. 

What happened? As extreme weather events have become more frequent due to climate change, decision-makers are realizing that conventional project assessments won’t do, and that building strong, resilient communities requires drastically innovative approaches. In a first for a federal agency, the HUD Office of Economic Resilience, in collaboration with the Rockefeller Foundation, mandated that nature be a key element in the design of development projects submitted to the $1 billion competition.

HUD required all applicants to use a more complete benefit-cost analysis developed by Earth Economics, a close partner of Global Footprint Network. It is exactly the kind of approach that Global Footprint Network and Earth Economics called for in July in our State of the States Report, which found the United States demands twice the resources that its ecosystems can regenerate. It is also similar to the approach that Global Footprint Network piloted with the state of Maryland when developing our Net Present Value Plus tool.

Profound shift

To assert the HUD/Rockefeller competition marks a significant departure from business as usual is an understatement. In fact, HUD has opened the door to a brand new approach where sustainability and resiliency are the guiding principles in deciding which disaster preparedness projects are worth funding.

“We are delighted a federal agency is demonstrating such a strong commitment to incorporating the value of nature into infrastructure and resilience projects,” said Dr. Mathis Wackernagel, co-founder and CEO of Global Footprint Network. “This is a profound shift that is bound to transform industry standards.”

Eligible applicants to the competition were required to incorporate nature into the economic impact analysis of their disaster resilience projects. All of them received training by Earth Economics on how to assess their costs and benefits more comprehensively, including the value of natural assets. The applicants then were allowed to seek Earth Economics’ assistance with their applications. Indeed, all of the applicants who sought Earth Economics’ assistance—including the state of California—won HUD money, totaling $680 million altogether.

In each case, Earth Economics coached the jurisdiction to understand how natural systems work within its specific region, and to make nature part of the solution recovering from natural disasters.

For the New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) Storm Resiliency Program, for instance, Earth Economics found New York City’s urban parks and green space affected by Hurricane Sandy provide $3.9 million in ecosystem services ranging from aesthetic and recreational value to water purification and storage value. NYCHA was awarded $176 million.

Decision-makers both inside and outside the United States ought to pay close attention to how this competition was conducted and to the innovative economic analysis that was applied. By using comprehensive methods for measuring the multiple benefits of post-disaster projects, government decision makers can have a far more beneficial, resilient and sustainable impact. This is the only way to avoid repetitive damage and billions in future costs, while building healthy lands and vibrant economies.

For more background on our Net Present Value Plus assessment tool, visit www.footprintentwork.org/npvplus.

Learn more about Earth Economics at www.eartheconomics.org.

Photo credit: US Department of Agriculture flickr 20120817-FS-UNK-0034


Global Footprint Network 2015 Highlights in Photos

12/29/2015 09:30 PM

Happy New Year from Global Footprint Network!

2015 has been a very important year for humanity and the health of our planet.

Building on the momentum of the historic Paris climate agreement, the stage is set to accelerate major shifts to a low-carbon and resource-secure future. While the goals are clear, the gap is still large, especially for the most vulnerable communities.

We look forward to even more progress next year, tracking our natural capital as carefully as we do our finances, and guiding decision-makers to take action in accordance with a resource-constrained planet.

With your generous support, we made substantial strides advancing global sustainability in 2015. Check out the slideshow below for highlights from the year:


Join us in helping all of humanity thrive within the means of our fabulous planet:

Calculate: Measure your own Ecological Footprint with our online calculator, which we plan to update with a mobile version in 2016.

Get social: Get news, photos and videos from Global Footprint Network’s Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn communities. Invite your friends and family members to learn more about natural resource constraints, one of the most urgent issues of our time.

Make a difference: Our interns, staff and board members are making a difference in such diverse areas as the Arctic, Iran, Switzerland and China. You can amplify our impact by donating to Global Footprint Network.

Thank you again for everything you do to preserve the only planet we have.


World leaders unanimously agree to end the fossil fuel age within a few decades

Mathis Wackernagel - 12/14/2015 04:30 PM

The climate pact approved in Paris Saturday represents a huge historic step in re-imagining a fossil-free future for our planet.

We consider it nothing short of amazing that 195 countries around the world—including oil-exporting nations—agreed to keep global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius and, to the surprise of many, went even further by agreeing to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

These bold moves suggest an end to fossil fuel by 2050. That is within 35 years—well within many of our lifetimes. In 35 years, my 14-year-old son will be my age. Just think, many people still can easily remember what happened 35 years ago: Jimmy Carter was unseated by Ronald Reagan; the summer Olympics in Moscow were boycotted by the U.S., Japan, West Germany, China, among other nations; John Lennon was killed; and the Empire Strikes Back debuted on movie screens.

So how ambitious is this vision of our world 35 years from now? U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry captured the boldness of it Thursday when he said, “Our aim can be nothing less than a steady transformation of the global economy.”

Of course, this is not going to happen automatically. Through the agreement, 190 nations acknowledged this transformation is the desired goal. Yet, science tells us that the pledges submitted by each nation are projected to result in a temperature rise of between 3 and 7 degrees Celsius, exceeding the 2-degree limit or “global handrail” acknowledged by the agreement. We are glad that the final agreement requires countries to return every five years with new emission reduction targets. Whether this essential requirement will be sufficient to catalyze more action remains to be seen.

It’s worth noting, however, that the pledges submitted by nations were submitted before many new commitments and developments were announced at COP21, which also give us more reason to be optimistic. Those developments include:

During the negotiations, environmentalists in India talked about the need to address consumption, new statistics showed agriculture and livestock activities contributed to a 16% increase in tree destruction in Brazil, and scientists from the Stockholm Environment Institute stressed that the battle not to “overshoot” 2 degrees involved both phasing out fossil fuels quicklyand keeping Earth and ocean carbon sinks intact.

Indeed, the agreement itself implies that committing to the 2-degree limit will involve far more than just a transition to clean energy; managing land to support many competing needs also will be part of the solution. If we truly move out of fossil fuel fast and furiously, demand for substitutes—for instance forests as a fuel source—could place tremendous new pressures on our planet if not managed well. At the same time, the agreement references reducing emissions through “sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries.” The agreement also says it “aims to strengthen the global response to climate change…in a manner that does not threaten food production.”

The combination of all these forces—consumption, deforestation, agriculture and food, emissions—underscores more than ever the value of a comprehensive measure like the Ecological Footprint, which takes into account all competing demands on the biosphere, including CO2 emissions and the capacity of our forests and oceans to absorb carbon. The carbon Footprint is just one component of the Ecological Footprint. The more comprehensive Ecological Footprint can help nations better understand such competing needs as reforestation to support carbon sequestration, cropland for food, timber for everything from heat to furniture to paper—and thus the need to manage all these demands on our planet’s ecosystems as a whole.

In the coming year, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will need to shift gears and focus on implementation and monitoring global and national progress through verification and metrics. Global Footprint Network is looking forward to using the Ecological Footprint framework to help leaders of such diverse nations as the United Arab Emirates, the Philippines, China, Montenegro, and the Moroccan hosts of the next climate conference in Marrakesh in December 2016 evaluate how they can best manage all these competing needs to protect our planet for us and future generations.

The race is not won, but scientists and national leaders have now agreed on the same finish line for the world to cross together. Let’s put on our running shoes and sprint into action.

Read our blog post on how the Conference of Parties (COP) 21 in Paris was the COP of all COPs.


Eiffel Tower image credit: Mark Hertsgaard.


Paris: The Mother of All COPs

Sebastian Winkler, VP of Outreach and Programmes - 12/12/2015 09:59 PM

During my time at the climate talks in Paris, I couldn’t help being struck by how this one truly was the COPs (Conference of Parties) of all COPs. Here are just a few of the many differences I observed at the COP21 compared with the half-dozen past conferences I have attended:

  • Cities, which account for over 70% of global emissions, were acknowledged as key drivers of innovative transformative action by the UN, governments, and scientists alike in Paris.
  • This was the first time tech companies like Google and Facebook were out in force, with their own booths and contingents. Indeed, both companies have taken major steps to migrate away from fossil fuels: Google has a goal to power its operations with 100% renewable energy, while Facebook has set a goal of running half of its operations with clean energy by 2018.
  • Despite charges of greenwashing cleverly and creatively raised by fake billboard ads, this COP marks the first time oil companies were supporting and speaking in favor of a climate agreement – in stark contrast to past COPs when they were vocal opponents. They have finally recognized they need to work within the system.
  • The scale of this COP far surpassed previous conferences, with numerous countries and organizations hosting their own booth and side events—almost like a world exposition—to showcase their own solutions.  For instance the Lima-Paris Action Agenda, a joint undertaking of the Peruvian and French COP presidencies, aimed at strengthening an already large groundswell of cooperative climate action involving states, regions, cities, business and investors throughout 2015, in Paris in December and beyond.

Read our blog post commentary on the Paris climate agreement’s vision for a fossil-free future.

Categories: Ecological Limits


From Paris to the Philippines, climate change is here. Now what?

Laetitia Mailhes, Global Footprint Network - 12/02/2015 10:23 PM

Despite the tragic events in Paris last month, expectations remain high for a global climate agreement in the City of Lights. The focus is on country-specific pledges for reducing emissions and powering up renewable energy in order to remain below the 2-degree-Celsius warming threshold.

Such commitments can’t be confirmed and implemented soon enough. And now more than ever, we need to look the reality of climate change in the face, beyond the seemingly abstract number conversation.

The man-made production of carbon emissions in excess of what the planet can absorb has not been occurring in a vacuum. Rather, it is one of the damaging effects of our fossil-fuel dependent, industrialized world—together with deforestation, topsoil erosion and biodiversity loss, to name just a few. Consequently, phasing out fossil fuels requires a holistic, innovative framework for development that includes not only renewable energy but also the responsible management of all renewable natural resources.

A member of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), the Philippines has been leading the charge down that path since learning about the Ecological Footprint methodology a couple of years ago. “Indeed, the time is right for ecological accounting,” declared President Benigno Aquino III in support of the 2012 Philippines Ecological Footprint study.

 

The archipelago is on the frontline of climate change, as then Philippines Climate Change Commissioner Naderev Saño told the world in his impassioned speech on the first day of the COP19 Climate Change Summit in Poland (click here, then scroll to 7:14-7:33), There, Pacific typhoons wreck infrastructure, land and lives with increasing frequency and destructive power.

At the same time, economic development and population growth in the Philippines have caused its Ecological Footprint to triple in the past 50 years. The country now demands twice the amount of renewable natural resources that its ecosystem can sustainably provide. The growing pressure on forests and agricultural land, compounded by unchecked land use, has led to the land’s and its inhabitants’ weakening resilience in the face of natural disasters.

In this context, we’re encouraged to see that the Philippines government has made climate change and environmental risks a political agenda priority. The Philippines has submitted one of the most ambitious pledges to the COP 21 climate talks in Paris, envisioning a 70% cut in its carbon emissions by 2030 if it receives the financial and technical support the country needs to fulfill its commitment.

President Aquino, who spoke in Paris this week and launched the Manila-Paris Declaration of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), is the very first leader in his country’s history to create an environment and climate change cluster in his cabinet. The 2009 Climate Change Act mandated the mainstreaming of climate change into the government policy formulations, the creation of the Climate Change Commission and the development of the National Strategic Framework and Action Plan on Climate Change (NSFPCC). It also tasked the Local Government Units (LGUs) to draft their respective climate change action plans in sync with the national framework.

Simultaneously, the Philippines has been taking significant steps towards improved resource management. On May 2011, President Aquino launched the National Greening Program (NGP), which aims to plant 1.5 billion trees in around 1.5 million hectares of public lands by 2017. The following year, he supported the Ecological Footprint of the Philippines Report: A Measure for Resilience. A second Ecological Footprint study was published in 2013, with a special focus on the Laguna Lake Region, the country’s largest lake ecosystem, which includes Metro Manila—the most densely populated area on Earth and most vulnerable region in the country.

The next study, which Global Footprint Network just launched in partnership with Agence Française de Développement (French Development Agency, ADF), will zero in on the country’s “food basket,” Mindanao—an island in the country’s south whose forest biocapacity constitutes nearly 40% of the Philippines’ total forest biocapacity and faces increasing risks.

Meanwhile, the public climate change and environmental debate has been growing strong in the street. Devastated by regular, violent and deadly typhoons, more and more Filipinos are demanding that the government take action to help adapt in the short-term as well as prevent worse-case scenarios in the long term. Filipinos staged their own climate march, last Sunday, ahead of the Paris Climate Summit. A major public demand over the past couple of years has been hinging on the vote of “green bills” – the National Land Use Act (NLUA) and Forest Resources Bill. The NLUA has been described as the keystone to responsible natural resource management in the Philippines, and is now pending in the Senate after being approved in the House of Representatives.

Despite clearly defined goals and intent, the road ahead is certainly a bumpy, challenging one, with immediate financial considerations playing a leading role. For now, climate and environmental advocates in the Philippines are trying to wrap their head around the recent announcement that the country will authorize 23 new coal plants on the grounds of reliable, affordable power. “It’s a crime against humanity,” Senator Loren Legarda, who chairs the country’s Senate Finance Committee and has pushed through new legislation on climate change and energy, told the BBC. “Coal is never an option, coal is not cheap. It pollutes the already vulnerable environment— it kills our air, it kills our biodiversity. Why are we approving coal? It does not make sense. We are victims of climate change and we want to exacerbate it? It does not make sense.”

Senator Legarda was recognized this week in Paris as a Global Champion for Resilience by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Disaster Risk Reduction. Soon he’ll be back home with President Aquino, who defended new generation coal power as the most affordable option available to help bring many people out of poverty. By the end of the climate talks we may find out whether the Philippines leader was bluffing with a view to forcing the hand of wealthy countries into funding climate solutions in the archipelago, or whether coal power truly won. Either way, we’re committed to helping the Philippines stay the course of natural resource accounting and responsible management in the long run. Strong ecosystems make for better resilience. And we choose to believe that sustainability practice breeds more sustainability practice.


Making a Difference: Sustainability is Now More Important Than Ever

Susan Burns and Mathis Wackernagel, Founders, Global Footprint Network - 12/01/2015 12:10 AM

This is the final post in a series titled “Making A Difference” where we highlight a different voice each week. See our full list here.

Throughout 2015, we have been eagerly awaiting the climate talks in Paris that began this week. Recent events have expanded the conversation to restoring peace, security and safety. To live in harmony and peace, however, we need to ensure a healthy world that guarantees all people have basic resource security. The link between climate change and national security continues to be more important than ever.

Political and environmental stability are closely linked. For example, an extreme drought in Syria led to massive crop loss and over 1.5 million people migrating from their farms to cities. This exacerbated political unrest in Syria.

Given this backdrop, we at Global Footprint Network are re-doubling our efforts to bring solutions to governments who seek to provide secure lives for their citizens while protecting the natural capital that their communities depend upon. We are proud of our 12-year history of raising awareness globally about ecological overshoot and providing tools that will help people to thrive within our planet’s limits.

During 2015, we have empowered cities and nations around the world to take action towards natural resource sustainability and resilience. We’re happy to share some of our highlights for the year:

  • Guiding the Vision for an “Eco-civilization” in China: We are helping Guizhou Province, one of China’s most biodiverse and low-income provinces, to chart a course toward President Xi Jinping’s vision of China as an “ecological civilization.” 
  • Raising Sustainability Awareness in the United States: We measured the sustainability performance of the 50 United States for the first time, attracting media coverage in National Geographic.
  • Resource Awareness in the Mediterranean: We calculated the Ecological Footprints—or resource and consumption—of 17 cities throughout the Mediterranean, providing such critical information as food supply and needs throughout the region.

Nature is the basis of our true wealth and only through a revolution in the way we account for and invest in natural capital will we have a chance of providing true security for the world’s people.

Thank you so much for your continued commitment to Global Footprint Network’s mission and its applications around the world.


Thanksgiving Potatoes Anyone? Ecological Footprinting in The Martian Movie

11/25/2015 01:30 PM

If I can grow enough potatoes, I won’t starve. But how large an area do I need to plant?

It’s a simple question in a complex and desperate situation. In the movie The Martian, an astronaut on a Mars mission is thought to have been killed in an accident and left on the red planet during an emergency evacuation by the rest of the crew. Mark Watney, the unlucky astronaut played by actor Matt Damon, must figure out how to survive. With four years to go before the next scheduled mission will arrive on Mars, but only enough food to last for one, a key part of survival will be avoiding starvation.

In his video log, Watney surmises, “So, I’ve got to figure out a way to grow three years’ worth of food here—on a planet where nothing grows. Luckily, I am a botanist. Mars will come to fear my botany powers.”

In his quest for food, Watney discovers potatoes that were set aside for Thanksgiving dinner. This is the only food that he can attempt to grow to supplement the remaining food rations. He carefully calculates how much area he needs to grow potatoes and ends up with 126 square meters of Martian cropland.

Since potatoes are renewable resources, Watney calculates that harvesting the larger potatoes and re-planting the smaller ones will provide 400 potato plants, enough calories to keep him going until he can be rescued.

Starting to sound familiar? It sure does to us at Global Footprint Network!


When Watney was calculating the rate at which he needed to consume potatoes, he was measuring his personal Ecological Footprint, or in other words, his demand for ecological resources. When he calculated that he would need 126 square meters to grow 400 potatoes, he was calculating the biologically productive area, or biocapacity, needed to meet this demand.

Spoiler alert: if you don’t want more of the movie revealed, we recommend you stop reading here.

Of course, the movie wouldn’t be a Hollywood blockbuster if there wasn’t another disaster. An explosion due to equipment malfunction breaches the pressurized barrier surrounding Watney’s precious potato plants. The sudden drop of pressure ruins Watney’s water supply, and the subzero temperatures kill any bacteria in the soil, shattering his opportunities to re-grow potatoes. Water, soil quality and temperature are among the critical factors that impact biocapacity, but are not directly measured by Ecological Footprint accounting.

It’s a vivid demonstration of how outside forces beyond an individual or population’s control can affect the water supply and then biocapacity. For Watney it was an explosion. For places like California, it’s a drought ultimately forcing farmers to leave millions of acres of land fallow.

In the movie, we also see how Watney’s Footprint almost exceeds biocapacity: He has to tear apart the mission’s artificial habitat to make enough space for the cropland needed to sustain him. On Earth, humanity’s Ecological Footprint has exceeded the planet’s biocapacity. This is largely because on Earth, the Ecological Footprint goes beyond measuring our demand for food. It adds up all the competing demands on our planet’s surface areas, including demand for land for housing and other infrastructure; demand for timber products provided by forests; and demand for carbon sequestration, also provided by forests.

Even though this dramatic story took place on Mars, the situation feels close to home as we face similar challenges of living within our ecological limits here on Earth.


Making a Difference: Advising the President of the Philippines

JR Nereus Acosta, Ph.D., Philippines Presidential Adviser for Environmental Protection and General Manager, Laguna Lake - 11/24/2015 05:25 AM

This is the fourth post in a series titled “Making A Difference” where we highlight a different voice each week. See our full list here.

Not a day goes by that I don’t wake up and think, “What am I going to face today? What kind of issue will it be: fish kill, pollution from industry, or destruction from a typhoon?”

As the general manager of the Laguna Lake Development Authority, I am responsible for managing and protecting the environment of one of the most densely populated areas on earth, the home of 25 million people, in the heart of the Philippines. I also serve as the environmental adviser to the president of the Philippines, one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change in the world.

The Philippines’ development path has been heavily unsustainable. Over-extraction and over-consumption of the country’s natural resources have made us more vulnerable to climate change-related calamities. Today the country is an ecological debtor—our nation’s citizens demand more ecological resources and services than our ecosystems can regenerate.

The Laguna Lake Basin that I oversee is home to one-quarter of the country’s people, concentrated on 65,000 hectares of land, including Metropolitan Manila. The lake provides 70 percent of fish consumed in Manila. Its watershed directly supports many industries and half a million informal settlers. Flood zones are expanding because of increased deforestation and sedimentation. Since the 1990s, the depth of the lake has gone from 12 meters deep to less than 3 meters deep today.

But I remain optimistic. Our president, Benigno Simeon Aquino III, an economist who values hard data, was the very first leader in Philippine history to create an environment and climate change cluster in his cabinet. And he fully supported two Ecological Footprint assessments to give us the tools and guidance to start making much-needed changes.

In my position, my mantra is there can be no economy without ecology. I am relentlessly pushing the message that employment, equality and education will not find a satisfactory solution without ecology.

Thank you so much for your continued commitment to Global Footprint Network’s work around the world.


Making a Difference: How the Ecological Footprint Changed My Vision of a Dream House

Daniel Goldscheider, Board Member - 11/13/2015 05:54 PM

This is the third post in a series titled “Making A Difference” where we highlight a different voice each week. See our full list here.

Two years ago, I decided against building my dream home after falling in love with the Ecological Footprint. A quest for clearly measuring sustainability led me to this unique, data-based approach to calculate humanity’s impact on the planet, including my family’s.

In my case, clever designs, expensive “green” materials, and cutting-edge energy-efficient technologies were not enough. None of this would enable my wife and family to move from our apartment in Switzerland into the large home we dreamed of…without growing our Ecological Footprint on the planet. This unexpected conclusion inspired me to make more changes in my life.

One of those changes was joining the Board of Directors at Global Footprint Network last year to lend my support as an entrepreneur to a cause I care about deeply.

My wife and I now have three children, and we still live in the same apartment: very happily so. In fact, I still can’t quite wrap my head around the joy I experience after streamlining my lifestyle to keep my Ecological Footprint in check. I love driving fast cars, for instance, and was keenly aware of how happy they made me. When I decided to go car-free to reduce my Footprint, something remarkable happened: My level of happiness didn’t drop one bit.

One major motivation for me to make these lifestyle changes is my desire to create a better planet for my children. But I am also aware that if everyone on the planet lived like the average Swiss citizen, we would need 2.8 Earths to sustain humanity’s demand on nature. That’s why I strongly believe in Global Footprint Network’s focus on driving systematic change at city, regional, and national levels.

You can support Global Footprint Network’s work by donating here. Your contribution will help empower people all over the world to make informed choices that ensure we all live well and within the means of our planet.

Thank you so much for your continued commitment to Global Footprint Network.

Categories: Personal Footprint


New China Footprint Website Launches with Release of WWF’s Living Planet Report China 2015

11/11/2015 08:01 PM

Beijing, China–Global Footprint Network launched the beta version of a new website, www.zujiwangluo.org, on Nov. 12 to build on and support the growing interest in the Ecological Footprint among partners and practitioners in government and academia throughout China.

The website, a core element of our Footprint initiatives in China, was launched today to support WWF China’s Living Planet Report-China 2015. The report, to which Global Footprint Network contributed, shows that in less than two generations time, China’s per-person demand on nature has more than doubled. This increase in demand went hand in hand with a substantial loss in the abundance of wild species: The average population size of China’s terrestrial vertebrates declined by half from 1970 to 2010.

Global Footprint Network’s new China website aims to serve as a collaboration platform for practitioners in government and academia in China who share the common goal of making Ecological Footprint accounting and related tools as rigorous as possible to fulfill China’s vision of an ecological civilization. The website’s name means “footprint network” in Mandarin.

The Ecological Footprint measures a population’s demand for the goods and services its land and seas can provide—fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, wood, cotton for clothing and carbon dioxide absorption. The Ecological Footprint can then be compared to biocapacity, which represents the capacity of ecosystems to meet that demand.

“With its goal of creating an ecological civilization, in which humans live in harmony with nature, China has the opportunity to lead the world in global sustainability and ensure a resilient future for our entire planet,” said Mathis Wackernagel, co-creator of the Ecological Footprint framework and president and co-founder of Global Footprint Network. “The Ecological Footprint can play an important role in guiding leaders in China to make strategic investments and set policies to turn their vision into a reality.”

The website builds on several Footprint initiatives in China. Global Footprint Network recently began collaborating with Guizhou Province, the nation’s most biodiverse yet poorest province. The Guizhou Footprint Initiative is co-sponsored by the Swiss government and comes in the wake of a Chinese- Swiss trade agreement.

“The Ecological Footprint will empower decision-makers in Guizhou to make informed decisions to develop our province into a model ecological civilization for the rest of China,” said Mingjie Zheng, deputy director of the Guizhou Institute of Environmental Sciences Research and Design. “We look forward to collaborating with Global Footprint Network to find sustainable development paths that preserve our province’s unique natural beauty while also improving the well-being of our citizens.”

In addition to Global Footprint Network’s work in Guizhou, practitioners in China already have measured the Ecological Footprint of Beijing and Yunnan and Sichuan provinces.

WWF’s Living Planet Report – China 2015, the fourth edition of the report, continues using the Ecological Footprint as a major indicator to compare the demand the country places on the natural environment against what Chinese ecosystems can renew—the nation’s biocapacity.

The report shows that China’s Ecological Footprint has grown to 2.2 times the nation’s biocapacity.

“WWF believes that better solutions do exist, and that together we can reverse the trend if we make better choices that ensure China’s development, without destroying nature,” said WWF International’s Director General, Marco Lambertini. “As the world’s largest emerging economy, China plays a vital role in global sustainability and environmental conservation. We are all connected, and collectively, we have the potential to find and adopt the solutions that will safeguard the future of our one and only planet.”

Additional findings in the WWF Living Planet – China 2015 report include:

  • China accounts for the largest share of the global Ecological Footprint, at 1/6 of the total.
  • Though China’s per capita footprint is lower than the global average, the nation is already consuming 2.2 times its biocapacity, causing more and more significant impact on the environment, including forest degradation, drought, soil erosion, water shortage, increase of carbon dioxide and biodiversity loss.
  • The Carbon Footprint remains the largest and fastest growing component of China’s Ecological Footprint, accounting for 51% of China’s Ecological Footprint in 2010.
  • Of 31 provincial-level administrative units studied, nine provinces contribute to half of the nation’s biocapacity, while five account for 35% of the nation’s total Ecological Footprint. Four more provinces are running an ecological deficit compared with two years earlier, with only two provinces, Qinghai and Tibet, holding an ecological reserve. A nation or province runs an ecological deficit when its Ecological Footprint exceeds its biocapacity, and holds a reserve when its biocapacity exceeds its Ecological Footprint.
  • Amphibians and reptiles showed the sharpest decline among vertebrate species, at 97%, while mammals suffered a decline of 50%. The population of resident birds, meanwhile, increased by 43%, thanks the growing number of protected areas and laws after 2000.

With the theme “development, species and ecological civilization,” the report was produced with the technical support of Global Footprint Network, the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research (IGSNRR) and Institute of Zoology (IOZ) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and in collaboration with the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED).


Read WWF China’s press release on the report in English or Chinese.

Read WWF’s Living Planet Report-China 2015 report in English or Chinese.



© 2003-2007 Global Footprint Network


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