Posted on 11 October 2007
As political and business leaders grapple to find ways of developing policies and products that help consumers lead more sustainable lifestyles, a new WWF campaign in Wales could help transform the local economy through greatly increasing the efficiency of energy and resource use.
By Ruth Bates and Alakie Asige*
A comfortable wage and a high quality of life are generally what people strive for, but our growing desire to consume more is taking its toll on the environment.
Take for example the food we buy and where we choose to go on holiday. Today, over 75% of all food eaten in Wales comes from supermarkets. Scan the vegetable and fruit shelves and it’s easy to forget that we have our own seasonal Welsh food. For instance, strawberries are now available nearly all year round, but this has an environmental impact: flying a tonne of strawberries to Wales from the Middle East in winter creates 300 times more CO2
than transporting home-grown strawberries in summer.
But such damage to the environment is a price many of us are willing to pay, especially when the airlines and supermarkets keep tempting us with their bargain offers.
The problem, as WWF has discovered by measuring humanity’s ecological footprint — our impact on the planet — is that if everyone consumed natural resources and produced CO2
at the rate we do in Wales, we’d need three planet Earths to support us.
Reducing the ecological footprint
The One Planet Wales campaign aims to help people living in Wales to significantly reduce their ecological footprint, while enabling others, currently using far less than their fair share, to develop and enjoy a good quality of life in ways that avoid environmental damage.
To help Wales achieve this goal, WWF commissioned a report entitled One Planet Wales: Transforming Wales for a prosperous future within our fair share of the Earth’s resources.
The report, written by the University of Manchester’s Centre for Urban Regional Ecology, outlines solutions, as well as challenges to the Welsh Assembly and the private and public sector on how to transform Wales’ economy through greatly increasing the efficiency of energy and resource use.
In today’s society, we are buying and consuming more than the planet can afford. Food and drink account for a quarter of Wales’ total ecological footprint, while travel and tourism contribute a further 17%, mostly due to car traffic and air travel — a sector that is on the increase. The biggest element of our footprint is the CO2
emissions from our use of energy.
Using ecological footprinting as a measure, the report concludes that Wales can reduce its impact by 75% by 2050, and that CO2
emissions must be reduced by at least 75%. However, if by 2050 current trends continue and existing policies are followed, Wales’ footprint will rise by 30%, owing to increases in air travel and the food and drink sectors.
The report also shows that if the campaign is to be successful, strong leadership from government is needed. The private and public sector also have an important role to play.
Meeting the targets
From national to local levels, the housing, transport and supply chains need to work together for One Planet Wales
to be a success. This means reducing the footprint of eight key sectors — food, buildings, transport, products, services, energy, resources and our lifestyles.
Is it possible to meet the targets proposed in the One Planet Wales
challenge? The answer is most definitely "yes", but it does mean a shift from our current "three planet" lifestyle to a "one planet" future.
When it comes to food, why not opt for fresh locally-sourced produce instead of pre-packaged foods? Buying locally-produced food cuts down on food miles — the resources used to get food from producer to plate. In the long run, changes in this sector could lead to a 30% reduction in the food footprint.
Reducing your footprint through a change in food and shopping habits also links with transport and travel. Personal transport contributes 18% of the total CO2
emissions in the UK, and is a growing contributor to climate change. The resulting problems include not only noise pollution and traffic congestion, but also the constant pressure to build more roads and expand airports.
One Planet Transport
envisages a future where the transport sector could reduce its total ecological footprint by up to 20%, through improved local traffic management, use of public transport, cycling and walking. These options would be both cheaper and better for the environment.
The campaign also seeks to bring about change in the energy sector, which currently contributes 21% of our footprint. The One Planet Energy
vision sees a future where Wales’ energy demand is reduced and local renewable energy sources are accelerated. Building and occupying our homes accounts for 27% of all CO2
emissions and the way in which houses are insulated can have a dramatic effect on our footprint.
By reducing, reusing and recycling, we aim to promote sustainable living, and to protect scarce resources and the fragile environment.
Making the change
Some of the One Planet Wales
changes will be easy, others more difficult. Some require just waking up in the morning and deciding to do it, others will involve adding your voice to tens of thousands of others to demand governments introduce policies, and to encourage businesses to ensure that their products and practices allow us to lead better quality lives.
Recognizing the scale of resource efficiency improvements required by the business sector, and rewarding businesses that identify opportunities that reduce their footprint and that of the market sector are crucial steps in moving towards a One Planet Wales
Morgan Parry, Head of WWF Wales sums it up best: “Our very future depends on our ability to live within the limits of the Earth’s natural resources, yet since the 1980s human demand has been exceeding the Earth’s ability to replenish and absorb. To meet the unprecedented global challenges we have before us, we need a shared vision and a shared plan. A vision whereby everyone in Wales, by 2050, can enjoy a high quality life, using our fair share of the Earth’s resources.”
The pressure is now on us to make changes in the way we consume, the energy we use and the impact we have on the environment. By living sustainably we can find lasting solutions to our problems both today and tomorrow. We all have a role to play.
* By Ruth Bates, WWF Wales Communications Officer, and Alakie Asige, WWF Wales Intern
• The Ecological Footprint
measures the resources we use to support our economy and our lifestyles. It is the best available measure for telling us whether or not we are living within the limits of the planet. The Ecological Footprint in Wales is largely made up of transport 17%, housing 21% and food 25%.
• One Planet Wales
forms part of WWF-UK's One Planet Campaign
which is about inspiring individuals, businesses and government to help achieve a future where people everywhere can lead happy, healthy lives within their fair share of the Earth's resources.