Footprint Network Blog - 2012

Hundreds Gather in Beirut to Address the Arab Region’s Ecological Footprint

Global Footprint Network - 12/06/2012 07:55 PM

Hundreds of delegates from across the Arab region gathered in the historic Phoenicia Intercontinental Hotel in Beirut at the end of November to discuss the Arab region’s Ecological Footprint and strategies to chart a sustainable future.

The Arab Forum for Environment and Development’s (AFED) two-day annual conference drew over 500 delegates from nearly 50 countries, including ministers, diplomats, academics and representatives from the civil and private sector. The study at the heart of this year’s conference, “Survival Options: Ecological Footprint of Arab Countries,” was released in partnership with Global Footprint Network, and is the most comprehensive survey of the condition of the Arab region’s natural environment to date. It includes the Arab Atlas of Footprint and Biocapacity, with profiles for 22 Arab nations and six sub-regions.

Lebanon’s President Michel Sleiman opened the conference, saying “Facts and figures in AFED’s report are alarming. The report should be nationally disseminated and used by all Arab countries. Its results and recommendations should be discussed by all sectors to integrate them in strategies.”

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The Financial Risks of Ecological Limits

Global Footprint Network - 11/19/2012 12:40 AM

Some of the economic implications of resource constraints were introduced to the world of international finance this week in London, when Global Footprint Network and the UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI), in collaboration with leading financial institutions, launched the E-RISC (Environmental Risk Integration in Sovereign Credit) report at Bloomberg, a leader in global financial data.

The interactive event drew over 150 participants, including representatives from leading financial institutions, investors, asset management firms and rating agencies, including Caisse des Depots, SNS Asset Management, Standard & Poor’s, J.P. Morgan, KfW Bankengruppe, Deutsche Bank, HSBC and Barclays.

To date, tightening resource constraints and their impacts on national economies have been largely absent from financial analyses. The E-RISC report fills this gap by exploring to what extent resource and ecological risks can impact a nation’s economy and how these factors affect a nation’s ability to pay its debts.

E-RISC Press Conference at Bloomberg, with Ivo Mulder (UNEP FI), Susan Burns (Global Footprint Network), and Nick Nuttall (UNEP)

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Categories: Footprint for Business, Footprint for Finance


Ecological Footprint Work Receives International Recognition with Prestigious Blue Planet Prize

Global Footprint Network - 11/15/2012 04:48 PM

Japan’s Prince Akishino and the Asahi Glass Foundation yesterday presented the Blue Planet Prize,  one of the world’s premier environmental awards, to Global Footprint Network President Mathis Wackernagel and Dr. William E. Rees, co-creators of the Ecological Footprint, and Dr. Thomas Lovejoy, who was recognized for his work in advancing our understanding of biodiversity.

Two Blue Planet Prizes are awarded annually by the Asahi Glass Foundation to individuals or organizations that make outstanding achievements in scientific research and its application in helping to solve global environmental problems. The prize is considered one of the most prestigious in the field of conservation.

Building on Rees’ earlier work on human carrying capacity, Drs. Wackernagel and Rees in the early 1990s developed the Ecological Footprint, the world’s premier resource accounting system, to track humanity’s demands on nature. Dr. Lovejoy was the first to clarify that human-caused habitat fragmentation damaged biodiversity and gave rise to environmental crises.

The prize was presented Wednesday in the Tokyo Kaikan, across from the Imperial Palace, with the Imperial Highness Prince and Princess Akishino, ambassadors and members of the Asahi Glass Foundation in attendance. The photo shows Drs. Wackernagel and Rees receiving the trophy from Asahi Glass Chairman Tetsuji Tanaka. Dr. Wackernagel has donated his $300,000 share of the prize money to Global Footprint Network to advance the Ecological Footprint work, and has invited supporters to help match the gift.

“I am convinced more than ever that it is possible to turn our economies into stewards of our planet,” Dr. Wackernagel said in his acceptance speech. “We cannot continue forever to take more from the planet than the planet can give.”

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Categories: Ecological Limits


Senior Scientist Alessandro Galli Discusses Ecological Footprint in Athenian Parliament

Global Footprint Network - 10/31/2012 11:33 PM

Senior Scientist Alessandro Galli delivered a talk in the Athenian Parliament last week during a Special Permanent Committee on Environmental Protection. The session theme was titled, “How MPs can contribute to the efficient depollution of the Mediterranean.” Galli was asked to deliver a Framework Setting presentation to introduce discussions on the challenges, successes and lessons learned about cleaner industrial production and the promotion of a green economy through greening of sectors such as tourism and agriculture.

Galli then focused on the Ecological Footprint of the Mediterranean region and outlined some of the key findings from the newly released “Mediterranean Ecological Footprint Trends” report. His talk starts at about 1:27:50 into the video below.

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Categories: Ecological Limits


Latest Ecological Footprint methodology paper accepted for publication in Ecological Indicators

Global Footprint Network - 09/18/2012 10:39 PM

Every year, Global Footprint Network continues to improve the methodology for calculating the Ecological Footprint. The most recent Calculation Method paper has been accepted for publication in the journal Ecological Indicators: Integrating Sciences for Monitoring, Assessment and Management.

The paper documents the latest method for estimating the Ecological Footprint and biocapacity of nations, using the National Footprint Accounts (NFA) applied to more than 200 countries and for the world overall. Results are also compared with those obtained from previous editions of the NFA. According to the 2011 Edition of the National Footprint Accounts, humanity demanded the resources and services of 1.5 planets in 2008; this human demand was 0.7 planets in 1961.

Each new edition of the National Footprint Accounts supports the conclusion that we are in global ecological overshoot, where total demand for ecological goods and services exceed the available supply and regenerative capacity, while also causing carbon waste accumulation. 

Categories: Footprint Standards


Ecological Footprint in Ecuador, New Collaborations

Global Footprint Network - 09/14/2012 05:13 PM

Mathis Wackernagel, President of Global Footprint Network, was in Quito, Ecuador at the invitation of the Ministry of Tourism to speak at the Inter-American Tourism Congress XX. The conference was part of the larger Conscious Tourism Congress.

Mathis spoke about the Ecological Footprint and underscored the current trends toward ecological overshoot.

“We have limited resources and unlimited wants. You have to think about tourism within this reality. We do not want to decrease the growth of tourism, but we need to see to what extent it will produce opportunities or harm,” he said.

After the talk on the conference’s inaugural day, Mathis met with the heads of several government agencies, including the Minister of the Environment (Mercy Borbor) and the Minister of Non-Renewable Resources, who expressed interest in working closer with Global Footprint Network.

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Categories: Footprint for Government


When and What is Earth Overshoot Day? Join the Live Tweet Chat with Global Footprint Network

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Global Footprint Network - 08/08/2012 04:13 PM

We are approaching this year’s Earth Overshoot Day, the approximate date our demand for ecological resources and services exceeds the planet’s ability to provide for the year.

While we are not yet announcing the exact date of Earth Overshoot Day, Global Footprint Network will host a Tweet Chat on Twitter (@EndOvershoot) at 8:00 am, 1:00 pm, and 6:00 pm (all PST) on August 22 to discuss Ecological Overshoot: What it means and how the Ecological Footprint is calculated.

You can indicate your “attendance” on our Facebook Event page.

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Categories: Ecological Limits


World’s First Walkable Ecological Footprint

Global Footprint Network - 08/01/2012 11:14 PM

In addition to enjoying the myriad outdoor activities and striking natural beauty of Austria’s Gesäuse National Park, visitors are now able to immerse themselves in the world’s first walkable Ecological Footprint.

In July, the national park held the grand opening of its newest attraction adjacent to its Willow Dome Nature Center. Styled in the form of a labyrinth, the Ecological Footprint (Der ökologische Fußabdruck) garden invites visitors to discover the Ecological Footprint of their nation and their own lifestyles. Citizens, tourists, and school groups playfully explore the environmental impacts of various consumption habits (such as diet, clothing, shopping and energy use) and learn about more sustainable options.

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Categories: Ecological Limits, Personal Footprint


Global Footprint Network Supports the Natural Capital Declaration

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Global Footprint Network - 08/01/2012 11:11 PM

Global Footprint Network supports the Natural Capital Declaration, a commitment made by CEOs from the finance sector to integrate natural capital accounting into their financial products and services.

Global Footprint Network is committed to creating a world where everyone can live well within the means of one planet. It is going to take all of us pulling together toward this common goal. We recognize the need to push the frontiers beyond business-as-usual and to explore more integrated approaches to finance.  As financial institutions are an integral part of the economy and society, initiatives like the Natural Capital Declaration are important to help lead the way.

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Categories: Footprint for Business, Footprint for Finance, Our Partners’ Work


The Effect of Rising Temperatures on the Energy-Water Nexus

07/25/2012 10:37 PM

May and June this year were hottest ever since record-keeping began in 1880, according to a new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report. 2014 could go down as the warmest year yet, exceeding the previous records set in 2003 and 2013.

There’s no question that the Earth is warming, ancient ice is melting and sea levels are rising. Friends of Global Footprint Network are well aware of many of the risks that anthropogenic climate change poses, particularly to the world’s poorest regions.

A risk that remains under-appreciated, however, is the impact that water availability will have on energy, and that constrained energy supply will have on water.

After food production, electricity generation is the second-largest consumer of water globally. Thermal power plants – those powered by coal, natural gas, oil and nuclear – consume vast amounts of water in their cooling cycles. A single nuclear reactor can consume over 15 million gallons of water per day. Power generation accounts for 41 percent of freshwater withdrawals and about three percent of freshwater consumption (3.3 billion gallons of water per day) in the United States.

Warmer temperatures have been taking a toll on these thirsty facilities. Every summer, a lack of water (or of water that is sufficiently cold) forces power plants to shut down. Inadequate and irregular rainfall has also forced hydropower facilities to shut down, such the Shivanasamudra plant in southern India this month.

Just as producing power requires water, producing water requires power. In California, one-fifth of the state’s electrical power is used to pump, treat, transport, heat, cool, and recycle water. Agriculture consumes 80 percent of the water in the state, which produces one-third of the vegetables and two-thirds of the fruits and nuts consumed in the United States.

This year is on track to be the driest in the history of recorded rainfall in the state, and has already forced cattle ranchers to pare down their herds and almond farmers to plow under their trees. Food prices across the nation have crept up due to the drought.

California is emblematic of the predicament that the world now faces. A growing population puts water, food, and energy supplies under even more pressure even as they are increasingly strained by climate change. But the most accessible solutions often lead to destructive feedback loops. For example, California’s current plan to replace the 2.2 gigawatts of power generation from the San Onofre Nuclear Generation Station shut down in 2012 is likely to rely substantially on new power generation from natural gas, which will pump even more CO2 into the atmosphere and increase the probability of future droughts.

As we anticipate the announcement of Earth Overshoot Day this year, which will arrive earlier than ever, it’s worth contemplating how we can find a way out of our predicament, and find real and enduring solutions to the knot of problems in the energy-water nexus. As many have observed, it is really an energy-water-food-economy-security-and-everything nexus, because energy and water are so fundamental to life. Eliminating waste, and using the precious resources we have as efficiently as possible, is the obvious place to start – and that’s a challenge we can all help to answer.

Categories: Carbon Footprint, Ecological Limits