Global Footprint Network reports: Africa, China, India

Earlier this year, NNC attended a Global Footprint Network event at Swissnex to celebrate the completion of their recent Global Footprint Africa report.  Since then, they have completed a global footprint report on China and, collaborating with the Confederation of Indian Industry, released a business perspective report on India’s Ecological Footprint.  A critical concept of all these reports is ecological overshoot, which describes a condition where humanity’s demands on the biosphere exceed its capacity to regenerate itself.  Global Footprint Network found that all of these regions are in, or approaching, overshoot.  According to the reports:

Courtesy Global Footprint Network

While Africans per capita consume very little of the world’s biological resources, growing population is bringing the region close to reaching it’s ecological limits, according to a groundbreaking report Global Footprint Network, in conjunction with WWF, presented June 9 at the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment in Johannesburg.  The report finds the average African had an Ecological Footprint of 1.1 global hectares in 2003, well below the global average of 2.2 hectares per person. However, a growing number of African countries are now depleting their natural resources or will shortly be doing so – faster than they can be replaced. Clear dangers loom from a projected more than doubling of Africa’s population by 2050, taking it from about one eighth to nearly a quarter of the total world population. Egypt, Libya and Algeria head the list of African countries living well beyond their ecological means, with the Ecological Footprints of Morocco, Tunisia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Senegal, Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe also exceeding national biocapacity.  However, several African nations are “ecological creditors:” they produce more biocapacity than they consume. This stands in contrast to U.S. and Europe which are ecological debtors. The U.S., for example, has a Footprint more than 100 percent larger than its biocapacity. According to the report, many opportunities exist in Africa to manage and use biocapacity more effectively.  Here is a full copy of the report.

China’s Ecological Footprint has quadrupled in the last four decades, with the country now demanding more from the planet than any nation except the United States, according to a report released in June 2008 by Global Footprint Network, WWF China, and CCICED (China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development). It now takes the equivalent of more than two Chinas to provide for the country’s resource consumption and to absorb its waste. Yet China’s individual consumption remains relatively moderate on the world scale, and they have a unique opportunity to make choices that lead it to high development without a high Ecological Footprint as their infrastructure and economy grow. “China has traditionally been forward-looking in recognizing that its resource constraints pose a serious potential threat to its long-term progress,” said Global Footprint Network Executive Director Mathis Wackernagel. “China’s leaders are painfully aware that they can only secure their population’s well-being within the limits of what the planet can provide.” The report outlines a strategy by which China could reduce its total Ecological Footprint, while still helping secure a high quality of life for its citizens. It involves a dual strategy: on the one hand addressing activities that are cheap and easy to change –such as the use of energy-efficient lighting – and on the other those have the longest-term effect on resource use, such as investing in resource-efficient infrastructure. 

India now demands the biocapacity of two Indias to provide for its consumption and absorb its wastes, according to a report released by Global Footprint Network and CII (Confederation of Indian Industry). The report, India’s Ecological Footprint: A Business Perspective, was presented Monday in New Delhi to a conference that included top Indian environmental officials, leaders of Indian industry, U.S. State Department representatives and other stakeholders. India’s Ecological Footprint – the amount of productive land and sea area required to produce the resources it consumes and absorb its waste – has doubled since 1961, according to the report. Today, the country’s total demand on biocapacity is exceeded only by the United States and China. “India is depleting its ecological assets in support of its current economic boom and the growth of its population,” says Mr. Jamshyd N. Godrej, Chairman of the CII Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre. “This suggests that business and government intervention are needed to reverse this risky trend, and ensure a sustainable future in which India remains economically competitive and its people can live satisfying lives.”

The next post will highlight Global Footprint Network’s 2008 Living Planet Report.

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.

About Swissnex:  Swissnex bridges knowledge and competencies in science, education, art and innovation between Switzerland, the USA, and Canada