Living Planet analysis shows looming ecological credit crunch -- for the Earth and Danube-Carpathians | WWF

Living Planet analysis shows looming ecological credit crunch -- for the Earth and Danube-Carpathians

Posted on 29 October 2008
Living Planet Report 2008
Living Planet Report 2008
© WWF
The world is heading for an ecological credit crunch as human demands on the world's natural capital reach nearly a third more than earth can sustain.

That is the stark warning contained in the latest edition of WWF’s Living Planet Report, the leading statement of the planet’s health. In addition global natural wealth and diversity continues to decline, and more and more countries are slipping into a state of permanent or seasonal water stress.

“The world is currently struggling with the consequences of over-valuing its financial assets,” said WWF International Director-General James Leape, “but a more fundamental crisis looms ahead -- an ecological credit crunch caused by under-valuing the environmental assets that are the basis of all life and prosperity.”

The report, produced with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the Global Footprint Network (GFN), shows more than three quarters of the world’s people now living in nations that are ecological debtors, where national consumption has outstripped their country’s biological capacity.

Living at the cost of others
“Most of us are propping up our current lifestyles, and our economic growth, by drawing - and increasingly overdrawing - on the ecological capital of other parts of the world,” Mr Leape said.

“If our demands on the planet continue to increase at the same rate, by the mid-2030s we would need the equivalent of two planets to maintain our lifestyles.”

The report, published every two years, has since 1998 become widely accepted as a statement of earth's ability to remain a “living planet”. In 2008, it adds for the first time new measures of global, national and individual water footprint to existing measures of the Ecological Footprint of human demand on natural resources and the Living Planet Index, a measure of the state of nature.

“We are acting ecologically in the same way as financial institutions have been behaving economically - seeking immediate gratification without due regard for the consequences,” said ZSL co-editor Jonathan Loh. “The consequences of a global ecological crisis are even graver than the current economic meltdown.”
“Continued ecological deficit spending will have severe economic consequences,” said GFN Executive Director Dr Mathis Wackernagel. “Resource limitations and ecosystem collapses would trigger massive stagflation with the value of investments plummeting, while food and energy costs skyrocket.”

The USA and China have the largest national footprints, each in total about 21 per cent of global biocapacity, but US citizens each require an average of 9.4 global ha (or nearly 4.5 Planet Earths if the global population had US consumption patterns) while Chinese citizens use on average 2.1 global ha per person (one Planet Earth).

Eastern Europeans part of the problem -- and the solution
Though not as profligate in their use of resources as Americans, people from the Danube-Carpathian region are nevertheless living well beyond their means. 2.5 earths would be required if everyone consumed like Czechs; 1.3 earths would be required if they consumed like Bulgarians.

“Particularly for countries in the Danube-Carpathian region, there are significant opportunities to develop and enhance livelihoods while at the same time ensuring that we do not exceed the one planet that we have,” said Michael Baltzer, director of the WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme.

For all countries of the Danube-Carpathian region, carbon emissions are responsible for the greatest part of the impact the country has on the planet, accounting for as much as 60% of the ecological footprint of the Czech Republic. But most countries of the region are grossly inefficient in their use of energy, with an intensity of energy use per unit of output that is two to three times higher than that of Western European countries. There is thus very significant potential for saving energy, saving money while also saving the planet.

The report shows for the world as a whole that a range of efficiency, renewable and low emissions measures could meet projected energy demands to 2050 with reductions in carbon emissions of 60 to 80 per cent.

The report also points to the growing crisis related to water, which is expected to increase with climate change. Bulgaria in particular is already experiencing severe stress on water resources. Much of this impact could be lessened with simple water conservation measures and more rational use of water resources.

“If humanity has the will, it has the ways to live within the means of the planet, but we must recognize that the ecological credit crunch will require even bolder action than that now being mustered for the financial crisis” Mr Leape said.

The global ecological footprint is worsening at an increasing rate. The 2006 WWF Living Planet Report revealed an excess ecological footprint of 25 per cent in 2003 (2008 LPR - 30 per cent on global data for 2005), with a projection that the two planet requirement would be reached around 2050 (2008 LPR – 2030s).


Notes for editors:

The 2008 Living Planet Report can be downloaded from www.panda.org/lpr/08

The report and additional multimedia materials including broadcast quality video can be found at wwf.extranet.largeblue.net, using the password mA1aGb73

The global ecological footprint is worsening at an increasing rate. The 2006 WWF Living Planet Report revealed an excess ecological footprint of 25 per cent in 2003 (2008 LPR - 30 per cent on global data for 2005), with a projection that the two planet requirement would be reached around 2050 (2008 LPR – 2030s).

For further information:
WWF: Phil Dickie, WWF International News Editor, +41 79 7031952, pdickie@wwfint.org
WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme: Andreas Beckmann, +43 676 84 27 28 216, abeckmann@wwfdcp.org
GFN: Nicole Freeling, + (415) 577-9282, nicole@footprintnetwork.org
ZSL: Alice Henchley, Senior Press Officer, +44 7790 301596, eml: alice.henchley@zsl.org

About WWF
WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with almost 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.

About ZSL
Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity: our key role is the conservation of animals and their habitats. ZSL runs ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, carries out scientific research in the Institute of Zoology and is actively involved in field conservation in over forty countries worldwide. www.zsl.org

About GFN
The Global Footprint Network promotes a sustainable economy by advancing the Ecological Footprint, a tool that makes sustainability measurable. Together with its partners, the network coordinates research, develops methodological standards, and provides decision makers with robust resource accounts to help the human economy operate within the Earth’s ecological limits. www.footprintnetwork.org

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