Asia-Pacific growth – a challenge to conservation and human development
19 Dec 2005, Hong Kong, China – Over the past forty years, the Asia Pacific region has trebled its consumption of natural resources due to a rapidly growing population and massive economic development. The region now uses 40 per cent of the world’s available natural resources.
The WWF report — Asia Pacific 2005: Ecological Footprint and Ecological Wealth — shows that people in the region are devouring resources at nearly double the rate that the region can support.
According to the report, their ecological footprint — their resource demand on earth — is 1.7 times higher than the rate at which Asia Pacific’s ecosystems can regenerate.
Although the overall Asian footprint is of global significance, the average footprint of an Asian is still seven times smaller than that of a North American and more than three times smaller than that of a European.
The report also finds that the per capita footprint of rapidly transforming nations such as China and India has remained relatively stable over the past few years, despite their huge economic growth. Largest per capita footprints in the region are Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the Republic of Korea.
“Asia-Pacific is in a unique position to shape the world’s path to sustainable development in the coming decades,” said James Leape, Director General of WWF International. “If this region, where more than half the world’s population live, can get the balance right between natural resource consumption and production, we can significantly halt the environmental degradation of our planet.”
The report shows that people in the region could consume less, pollute less, and tread more lightly on the planet without harming economic growth and competitiveness with the rest of the world. It suggests: creating more resource-efficient buildings and transport networks in major cities, particularly in China and India; moving away from a fossil fuel economy and advancing innovation and know-how in new energy technologies, as well as building energy systems that free the region from the high cost of fossil fuel imports; investing in solutions for the transformation of economies towards sustainability, especially in the areas of food, health, nature management, transportation, and shelter; and withdrawing investments from industries that are obstacles to sustainability.
“The sooner the Asia-Pacific region begins to rigorously manage the use of its natural resources, the cheaper it will be to maintain these assets in future,” said Dr Isabelle Louis, Director of WWF’s Asia-Pacific Programme. “These ecological assets are not only essential for ecological health, but key to maintaining people’s wellbeing in the region.”
“Resource accounting as provided by the ecological footprint tool is an opportunity for more effective management of our ecological assets,“ said Dr Mathis Wackernagel, Executive Director of Global Footprint Network and co-author of the study. ”The footprint is not about how bad the situation is, but what we can do about it.”
• The Living Planet Report 2004 was the fifth in a series of Living Planet publications, which explore the impact of man on the planet. It is based on two indicators — the Living Planet Index and the Ecological Footprint. It examines the state of nature and resource use in 149 of the world’s major countries using data from 2001.
• The Living Planet Index measures overall trends in populations of wild species around the world. It includes 555 terrestrial species, 323 freshwater species and 267 marine species.
• The Ecological Footprint is a measure of human demand on ecosystems (the biosphere). It measures how much nature we have, how much nature we use, and who gets what. It represents the amount of biologically productive land and water a population (an individual, a city, a country or all of humanity) requires for the resources it consumes and to absorb its waste, using prevailing technology.
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- WWF-Hong Kong
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