China needs innovative solutions to reduce footprint - 2012 China Ecological Footprint Report
Produced in collaboration with the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research (IGSNRR) and Institute of Zoology (IOZ) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Global Footprint Network (GFN) and Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the third edition of the report shows that although China’s per capita Ecological Footprint – or demand the country places on the natural environment - is lower than the global average, the nation is already consuming 2.5 times its biocapacity, the capacity to regenerate natural resources and absorb carbon emissions.
Carbon remains the largest component of China’s overall Ecological Footprint, increasing from 10 per cent in 1961 to 54 percent in 2008. Only a small portion of this comes from direct consumption of fuel or electricity in households or of gasoline for transport – the vast majority are indirect emissions, embodied in consumer goods and services, which account for up to 90 per cent of carbon footprint in some regions.
The drivers of the average Chinese person’s Ecological Footprint have also changed, with a significant turning point around 1985 when growth rates of per capita consumption outstripped production efficiency.
“Of all the demands China is now placing on its environment, carbon emissions are having the biggest impact by far. More than ever, the country needs innovative solutions to reduce its carbon footprint - production efficiency needs to improve, and consumers need to shift their choice to low footprint products.” added Dr. Li Lin.
The report shows that rapid urbanization is having a big impact on China’s footprint, with urban areas registering much higher per capita footprints than rural areas across all mainland provinces. Urbanization often comes in tandem with increasing income, which in turn leads to the growth and change of consumption patterns.
However, findings also show that rural areas face unique challenges in ensuring the health of their natural resources.
“In Beijing’s urban core, the average household consumes less energy than homes in its rural peripheries. Urban density has a lot to do with this, as does access to better public transportation and other services mainly found in cities,” said Dr. Li.
“But reducing the nation's footprint isn't challenge faced by cities alone - it requires balanced development in urban and rural areas and the promotion sustainable consumption patterns outside of major population centers,” she added.
Health of 12 key species analyzed
The report also provides an in-depth analysis of 12 key species1 across China, revealing that although many are receiving top-level protection status, iconic giant pandas and Asian elephants are showing slow recovery rates - only the crested ibis and Chinese musk deer are showing signs of positive population growth.
“The factors threatening key species, including poaching, human population growth, urbanization, infrastructure construction and global climate change, are faced by Chinese ecosystems to varying extents,” said Professor Yang Qisen from IOZ.
To better understand these threats, future editions of the China Ecological Footprint Report will contain a robust index that measures changes to the health of the country’s ecosystems over time.
Modeled on WWF’s global Living Planet Index, which measures the health of the planet’s ecosystems by tracking 9,000 populations of more than 2,600 species, the early stages of the domestic equivalent uses information on vertebrate populations from 1952-2011, representing nearly 8 per cent of China’s vertebrates.
“It is essential for China, one of the 12 globally recognized highest biodiversity countries, to establish its own Living Planet Index to support the biodiversity protection research in China,” said Yang Qisen.
WWF believes that China can do more to move towards a green economy and proposes that the nation better define ecological redlines in specific areas, increase natural resource protection, and develop stronger policies that help improve biocapacity.
“China is at a turning point. The choices China makes today regarding consumption, production, investment and trade, and in managing its natural capital, will determine the country’s future,” said WWF International Director General Jim Leape. “China is now the world’s second largest economy: choosing a sustainable development path is essential to China’s ecological security and its people’s wellbeing, but will also have a critical influence on global sustainable development.”
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Qiu Wei, Senior Communications Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org, +86 10 6511 6272
1Twelve key species are: Giant Panda, Amur Tiger, Japanese Crested Ibis, Musk Deer, Asian Elephant, Qinghai Lake Naked Carp, Central Asian Salamander, Père David’s Deer, Bactrian Camel, Hainan Gibbon, Chinese Alligator and Yangtze River Dolphin.
WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 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.
The Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research (IGSNRR), established within the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), is a national platform for knowledge and innovation. IGSNRR currently gives high priority to research on physical geography and global change, human geography and regional development, natural resources and environmental security, geo-information mechanisms and system simulation, water cycle and related land surface processes, ecosystem network observation and modeling, and agricultural policies.
About Global Footprint Network
Global Footprint Network promotes the science of sustainability by advancing the Ecological Footprint, a resource accounting tool that makes sustainability measurable. Together with its partners, the Network works to further improve and implement this science by coordinating research, developing methodological standards, and providing decision-makers with robust resource accounts to help the human economy operate within the Earth’s ecological limits.
About Institute of Zoology (IOZ)
Institute of Zoology (IOZ), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), is a government-funded research institution in zoological sciences. With its efforts to both address basic scientific questions and meet national and public demands in the fields of biodiversity, ecology, agricultural biology, human health and reproductive biology, IOZ places great emphasis on integrative biology, evolutionary biology and reproductive biology. Other high priorities include invasive biology and technological innovations for sustained control of agricultural pests.
About Zoological Society of London
Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international scientific, conservation and educational organization. Its mission is to achieve and promote the worldwide 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 worldwide.