How can Mediterranean societies thrive in an era of decreasing resources?
This is the question explored by Global Footprint Network in its latest study launched today at an event in Barcelona, Spain. As it turns out, resource demand and carbon emissions in the Mediterranean region are large and growing, with many countries achieving high human development but at an environmental cost. The countries that demand fewer resources, meanwhile, fall short of key human development goals.
Since 2000, most Mediterranean countries have achieved high development (above 0.7) as measured by the U.N. Human Development Index (HDI). Today only Morocco and Egypt have an HDI score less than 0.7, although their scores are also rising. (See chart below.)
But, in all cases, this development has been accompanied by a higher Ecological Footprint, which represents the competing demands a population puts on the planet’s productive surfaces, including food, fiber, timber, carbon dioxide sequestration and space for infrastructure.
At current population levels, our planet provides only 1.8 global hectares (gha) of biologically productive surface area per person. Thus, although nations’ resources vary widely, the average Ecological Footprint per person worldwide needs to fall significantly below this threshold to accommodate larger human populations and also provide space for wild species to thrive. However, the majority of Mediterranean countries (except Palestine, Morocco and Syria) have a per capita Footprint up to 1.5 times higher than this 1.8 gha threshold.
"On the heels of the United Nations approving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals last month, it is encouraging to see that human development for all Mediterranean countries has been climbing," said Alessandro Galli, Mediterranean region director of Global Footprint Network. "However, truly fulfilling the vision of the Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development—ensuring a high quality of life without degrading the environment—requires taking full account of physical limits at all levels of decision-making."
The new Mediterranean study also notes that increasingly protein-intensive diets are among the contributors to the region’s growing Ecological Footprint. Based on a Footprint analysis of 12 cities, housing and transportation in cities stand out as major opportunities to build a more sustainable Mediterranean region.
Learn more about our Mediterranean study here.