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The Mediterranean is a unique biodiversity hotspot and tourist destination. One third of all tourists worldwide visit the Mediterranean region every year. Unsustainable consumption and development trends, however, threaten the ecological assets that are the Mediterranean region's most valuable sources of strength.
Overall, the Mediterranean region is using approximately 2.5 times more renewable resources than its ecosystems can provide, according to a new study by Global Footprint Network, titled "How can Mediterranean societies thrive in an era of decreasing resources?" In addition, no country in the Mediterranean region meets two key minimum conditions for global sustainable development: living within the planet's resource budget and satisfactory well-being for its residents, according to the study.
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Highlights from the study include:
- The average Food Footprint of a Mediterranean resident is approximately 0.9 gha per person—with a range from 0.6 gha—thus higher than that of such countries as India (0.4 gha), China (0.5 gha), Costa Rica (0.6 gha) and Germany (0.8 gha).
- In analysis of 12 Mediterranean cities, Cairo has the highest total Ecological Footprint, followed by Barcelona and Rome.
- The Mediterranean cities with the highest Ecological Footprint per person are Genoa, Athens and Rome.
- The Mediterranean cities with the lowest Ecological Footprint per person are Antalya, Cairo and Izmur.
- The demand for renewable resources in Athens exceeds the entire nation of Greece's supply of resources by 22 percent, although the city's population comprises about a third of the nation's population.
|Country||Human Development Index||Carbon Footprint||Non-carbon Footprint||Total Ecological Footprint||Biocapacity||Food Footprint||Transportation Footprint||Housing Footprint|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||0.73||1.08||1.46||2.53||1.70||—||—||—|
Key Findings of 2015 Mediterranean Analysis
Virtually every country in the Mediterranean region consumes more ecological resources than local ecosystems can replenish. To cover the widening gap between supply and demand, the region is increasingly relying on global resources, which are also becoming increasingly limited. Nations in the region now need to factor in the resource constraints of their trade partners and recognize the risk it poses to their own economic prosperity.
The U.N. Human Development Index measures the development level of a nation based on the life expectancy, education and income of its residents. On a scale of zero to one, the U.N. Development Programme defines 0.7 as the threshold for a high level of development (0.8 for very high development). Since 2000, most of the Mediterranean countries have moved beyond that threshold. Today only Morocco and Egypt have a HDI score less than 0.7, although their scores are also rising.
The concept "within the means of nature" is measured by the Ecological Footprint. The Footprint adds up the competing demands 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.
The food sector is the biggest driver of the Ecological Footprint in the Mediterranean region, at about 35% of its overall Ecological Footprint. Food is a substantial share (ranging between 20% for Slovenia and 70% for Morocco) of Mediterranean countries’ overall resource requirements. Other significant drivers are transportation (≈28%) and housing (≈9%). This composition poses a specific challenge because food consumption can only be shifted (increased or decreased) to a small extent, given that food is one of the key basic human needs.
The average Food Footprint of a Mediterranean resident is approximately 0.9 gha per person—with a range from 0.6 gha to 1.5 gha—thus higher than that of such countries as India (0.4), China (0.5), Costa Rica (0.6 gha) and Germany (0.8 gha).
The reasons for the Mediterranean region’s relatively high food Footprint include water scarcity, low agricultural productivity, growing dependence on imported food, and a transition away from the traditional environmentally friendly and healthy Mediterranean diet. Instead of consuming cereals, vegetables and oil typical of the Mediterranean diet—which have a low Footprint—countries are consuming more meat and dairy, which have higher Footprints.
Agriculture productivity improvements, food waste reduction, and the promotion of healthier and less protein-based diets thus represent Footprint reduction opportunities for the region.
An analysis of 12 cities in the Mediterranean found one or two major urban areas are major contributors to the national Ecological Footprint in several Mediterranean countries. City findings include:
- Residents of Cairo (about 16% of the country’s population) demand about 85 percent of the overall country’s biocapacity.
- Transportation is the single most important Footprint driver in Athens, alone demanding approximately 36 percent of the country’s biocapacity. Municipal transportation policies in Athens could thus likely lead to a noticeable reduction in the Ecological Footprint of Greece.
Global Footprint Network’s Mediterranean Initiative, launched in June 2010 with the support of MAVA Foundation and in partnership with Plan Bleu, WWF's Mediterranean Programme and UNESCO Venice Office, aims to bring leaders together to develop a regional approach to managing resource consumption and availability. Our goal is to improve the lives of the region’s residents by incorporating resource constraints into decision-making to ensure the region is both ecologically and economically sustainable.
Our activities include:
- National and subnational engagements to measure resource use and availability and help decision-makers shape and monitor sustainability policies.
- City Footprint analysis for local planners and decision-makers to guide land-use and budget decisions, track sustainability progress, and support resilient policies and actions.
- Food Footprint analysis to identify opportunities to create more sustainable, healthier communities.
- Investment and capital project analysis using our Net Present Value Plus (NPV+) tool to help leaders shift decisions toward more sustainable projects.
- Campaigns to raise awareness of resource limits among the general public, including a customized online Footprint calculator and other online and p rint collateral.
- Technical trainings to build capacity on the Footprint methodology and its implications.