Ecological Footprint as a Sustainability Indicator


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Ecological Footprint assessment helps to identify what activities are having the biggest impact on nature and opens up possibilities to reduce our impact and live within the means of One Planet. It provides measurement of collective consumption of the population whether they are exceeding the Earth’s ecological limits or not. It is compared with Biocapacity which measures the amount of available bioproductive resources in ecosystem. The introduction of Ecological Footprint has been very necessary for the context of Bangladesh especially in Dhaka as the endless demand and the unplanned consumption pattern of the population here have been producing a very unsustainable situation.

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Ecological Footprint as a Sustainability Indicator

  1. 1. “Ecological Footprint” as a Sustainability Indicator   Presented by Shahadat Hossain Shakil Research Assistant BUET Climate Change Study Cell & Department of Urban and Regional Planning Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, Dhaka-1000 National Research Conference – 2012 Organized by: Bangladesh Peace and Development Mission In Association With: National Academy for Educational Management 1
  2. 2. Content Introduction Concepts and Definition of Ecological Footprint and Biocapacity Ecological Overshoot (Global and National Context) Ecological Footprint as a Sustainability Indicator 2
  3. 3. IntroductionBut with Humanity depends onhas emerged as the world’s premier The the increasing demand,much we fixed resource stocks are But how do we Footprint nature for are using supply Ecological know how nature’s resource and being depleting at offaster havethan they can nature. measure a humanity’s demand on regenerate how much we rate to use? Demand = ? Supply = ? Deficit or Reserve = ? 3 Source: Global Footprint Network )(2011) Source: Wackernagel (2004
  4. 4. Introduction (cont...)Ecological Footprint- is a Resource Accounting Tool for the Ecological Resources- developed in 1990 by Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees- has been started to be used as a tool of measuring sustainability in thedeveloped countries from the last decade.for example: UK – Cardiff, 2005 ; Canada - Calgary, 2007 ; Australia – Victoria, 2008; USA - Minnesota, 2010- UNDP recently began including the Ecological Footprint in its annualHuman Development ReportSource: Global Footprint Network (2011) 4
  5. 5. Concepts and DefinitionFootprint accounts are divided into two parts:- Ecological supply (Bioproductive Area or Biocapacity) and- Human demand on nature (Ecological Footprint) 5
  6. 6. Ecological Footprint- A measure of how much biologically productive land and water anindividual, population or activity requires to produce all the resourcesit consumes and to absorb the carbon dioxide emissions it generatesusing prevailing technology and resource management practices (Rees& Wackernagel, 1996).- unit of measurement Global Hectare (gha) Source: Global Footprint Network (2011) 6
  7. 7. Footprint Components  National Footprint Account Comprises of Six Components1  City Footprint Account Comprises of Two Components2 Components of Footprint Cropland Footprint Grazing Land Footprint Fishing Ground Footprint Forest Land Footprint Built-Up Land Footprint Carbon Uptake Land Footprint Source: Global Footprint Network (2011)1 Ewing, Reed, Galli, Kitzes, & Wackernagel (2010)2 Simmons, Lewis, & Barrett (2000) 7
  8. 8. Equation for Footprint AccountFormula of Ecological Footprint derived from National Footprint AccountMethodology 2010 (Ewing, Reed, Galli, Kitzes, & Wackernagel, 2010): EF = (P/YN). YF. EQFWhere, P = Amount of Product Harvested or Waste Emitted YN = National Average Yield for P or its Carbon Uptake Capacity YF = Yield Factor EQF = Equivalency Factor 8
  9. 9. BiocapacityBiocapacity is the capacity of ecosystem to produce biologicalmaterials useful for people, and to absorb waste they generate(including carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning), using currentmanagement schemes and extraction technologies. Components of Biocapacity Account Cropland Grazing Land Fishing Ground Forest Land Built-Up Land Source: Ewing, Reed, Galli, Kitzes, & Wackernagel (2010) 9
  10. 10. Equation for Biocapacity AccountAccording to National Footprint Account Methodology 2010 (Ewing,Reed, Galli, Kitzes, & Wackernagel, 2010), a country’s biocapacity BCfor any land use type is calculated as follows: BC = A. YF. EQFWhere, A= Area Available for a Given Land Use TypeYF and EQF = Yield Factor and Equivalence Factor, respectively, for the Country, Year, and Land Use Type in Question 10
  11. 11. Ecological OvershootThe difference between the Biocapacity and Ecological Footprint ofa region or country is termed as Ecological Deficit or Overshoot. Anecological deficit occurs when the footprint of a population exceedsthe biocapacity of the area available to that population. Source: Ewing, Moore, Goldfinger, Oursler, Reed, & Wackernagel (2010) 11
  12. 12. Global context Currently needed 1.5 Earth, 2required to be needed byworlds carbon if Ten Planet Earths will be Earth will absorb the the year 2040everyone leads the same energy-rich lifestyle like developed countries Source: Global Footprint Network (2011) Source: Ecological Footprint Atlas (2010) 12
  13. 13. Why Ecological Footprint is a Sustainability Indicator ? Ecological Footprint attempts to answer one central sustainability question: “Howmuch of the bioproductive capacity of the biosphere is used by human activities?” Such a measure of the supply and human demand on natural capital isindispensable for tracking progress, setting targets and driving policies forsustainability. Ecological footprint accounts allow governments to track a city or region’sdemand on natural capital and to compare this demand with the amount of naturalcapital actually available. Ecological footprint figure confirms us about the degree of sustainability of ourlifestyle from the environmental perspective. It illustrates whether we are on right track by maintaining the balance or we areliving on ecological credits, borrowing resources from our future generations. Unit of measurement gha/capita is very effective to personalize sustainability 13
  14. 14. Bangladesh Context Lowest National Footprint in Global Context but in prominent citiesunsustainable urban development causes destruction of natural resource Capital Dhaka is unplanned and unsustainable in terms of resource use Dhaka city’s Ecological Footprint figure can be effectively used for Sustainable Planning and Development 14
  15. 15. ReferencesEwing, B., Moore, D., Goldfinger, S., Oursler, A., Reed, A., & Wackernagel, M. (2010). Ecological Footprint Atlas 2010. Oakland: Global Footprint Network.Ewing, B., Reed, A., Galli, A., Kitzes, J., & Wackernagel, M. (2010). Calculation Methodology for the National Footprint Accoounts, 2010 Edition. Oakland: Global Footprint Network.Global Footprint Network. (2011). Foorprint Basics-Overview. Retrieved May 10, 2011, from Global Footprint Network : Advancing the Science of Sustainability: Footprint Network. (2011). Footprint For Cities . Retrieved May 10, 2011, from Global Footprint Network : Advancing the Science of Sustainability : Footprint Network. (2011). Glossary. Retrieved May 10, 2011, from Global Footprint Network : Advancing the Science of Sustainability:, S. A., & Peters, H. M. (2007, June 26). The Ecological Footprint of Utah. Retrieved April 4, 2011, from Utah Vital Sign: (2010). Living Planet Report 2010. Switzerland: World Wide Fund For Nature International.Xu, S., & Martin, I. S. (2010). Ecological Footprint for The Twin Cities: Impacts of the Consumption in the 7-County Metro Area. Minneapolis: Metropolitan Design Centre, College of Design, University of Minnesota. 15
  16. 16. Thanks for your patience…. 16
  17. 17. Definition of Ecological Footprint ComponentsCrop Land Calculated from the area used to produce food and fiber for human consumption, feed for livestock, oil crops and rubberGrazing Land Calculated from the area used to raise livestock for meat, dairy, hide and wool productsForest land Calculated from the amount of lumber, pulp, timber products and fuel wood consumed by a country each yearFishing Grounds Calculated from the estimated primary production required to support the fish and seafood caught, based on catch data for 1,439 different marine species and more than 268 freshwater speciesCarbon Uptake Land Calculated as the amount of forest land required to absorb CO 2 emissions from burning fossil fuels, land-use change and chemical processes, other than the portion absorbed by oceansBuilt-up-Land Calculated from the area of land covered by human infrastructure, including transportation, housing, industrial structures, and reservoirs for hydropowerSource: WWF. (2010). Living Planet Report 2010. Switzerland: WWF (World Wide Fund For Nature) International. 17
  18. 18. Ecological Footprint ComponentsSource: WWF. (2010). Living Planet Report 2010. Switzerland: WWF (World Wide Fund For Nature) International. 18
  19. 19. Fundamental Assumptions of EF and BCAccounting  The majority of the resources people consume and the wastes they generate can be quantified and tracked.  An important subset of these resource and waste flows can be measured in terms of the biologically productive area necessary to maintain flows. Resource and waste flows that cannot be measured are excluded from the assessment, leading to a systematic underestimate of humanity’s true Ecological Footprint.  By weighting each area in proportion to its bioproductivity, different types of areas can be converted into the common unit of global hectares, hectares with world average bioproductivity.  Because a single global hectare represents a single use, and each global hectare in any given year represents the same amount of bioproductivity, they can be added up to obtain an aggregate indicator of Ecological Footprint or Biocapacity.  Human demand, expressed as the Ecological Footprint, can be directly compared to nature’s supply, Biocapacity, when both are expressed in Global Hectares.  Area demanded can exceed area supplied if demand on an ecosystem exceeds that ecosystems regenerative capacity.Source: Ewing, Moore, Goldfinger, Oursler, Reed, & Wackernagel (2010) 19
  20. 20. Limitations of EF and BC Accounting Some critique the simplicity of the calculation while arguing that it inaccurately assumes certain elements in lieu of having to deal with potentially complex calculations (Xu & Martin, 2010). Van den Bergh and Verbruggen argue that the ecological footprint fails to capture relative scarcity changes over time and space. Further, they question the use of potential forest sequestration indicating that the amount of forest available is extremely hypothetical and moreover, the footprint calculation does not consider social and economic influences correctly (Bergh, Verbruggen, & C.J.M., 1999). The ecological footprint incorporates many factors of human impact on the environment but it does not account for every impact on the environment and oftentimes, ecological footprints are underestimating the actual impact. For instance when there is no data on certain aspects of consumption, such as other hazardous air pollutants, heavy metals, and persistent organic pollutants, they are not included in the calculations and there is a general understanding that most ecological footprints remain conservative so as not to exaggerate unknown impacts (Xu & Martin, 2010). The Ecological Footprint is not sufficient as a stand-alone measure of sustainability. To measure overall progress towards sustainable development, the Footprint needs to be complemented by other measures. Issues such as social satisfaction, human health, the integrity of natural ecosystems, or the conversion and management of non-renewable 20 resources such as minerals must be assessed using other tools (McIntyre & Peters, 2007).
  21. 21. Limitations of EF and BC Accounting The footprint and biocapacity accounts also do not directly account for freshwater use andavailability, since withdrawal of a cubic meter of freshwater affects biocapacity differentlydepending on local conditions. Removing one cubic meter from a wet area may make littledifference to the local environment, while in arid areas every cubic meter removed can directlycompromise ecosystem production (Ewing, Reed, Galli, Kitzes, & Wackernagel, 2010). Also, while the Footprint analysis measures biocapacity, it does not determine how much ofthe total biocapacity is available to meet non-human demand. For example, if humans consume100% of the Earth’s biocapacity, then there is nothing remaining to support wildlife. TheFootprint does not consider how much biodiversity is essential for human life on this planet.The methodology is therefore fundamentally anthropocentric (McIntyre & Peters, 2007). Finally, it is important to remember that the Ecological Footprint is only a snapshot in time.The Footprint Accounts are based on the actual consumption and production data reported byUnited Nations statistical agencies for a specified year. They reflect the analyzed year’sconsumption, land management and harvesting practices, without a forecast of futuretechnologies, energy supply mixes, consumption patterns, or changes in land managementpractices, all of which will affect the Footprint in future years (McIntyre & Peters, 2007). 21
  22. 22. Sequestration Factor Processes that remove CO2 from the atmosphere Used for conversion of CO2 values back into land areas needed 1.6175 tons-C/ha-yr (GFN,2005)Source: Global Footprint Network, 2011 22
  23. 23. Equivalency Factor Used for creating a homogenous scale of land quantity byequalizing any differences in bioproductivity of different land types Converts land areas, in hectares to global hectares World Average Suitability Index for a Given Land Use TypeEquivalency Factor = Average Suitability Index for All Land Use Types Figure: Sample Equivalency Factor for Selected Countries Source: Ewing, Moore, Goldfinger, Oursler, Reed, & Wackernagel (2010) 23
  24. 24. Equivalency FactorSource: Ewing, Moore, Goldfinger, Oursler, Reed, & Wackernagel (2010) 24
  25. 25. Yield Factor Ratio of national average to world average yields YFL = YN / YW Where, YN = National Average Yield YW = World Average Yield YFL = Yield Factor of Land Use “L” Figure: Sample Yield Factor for Selected Countries Source: Ewing, Moore, Goldfinger, Oursler, Reed, & Wackernagel (2010) 25
  26. 26. Yield FactorSource: Ewing, Moore, Goldfinger, Oursler, Reed, & Wackernagel (2010) 26
  27. 27. Global HectareThe global hectare (gha) is a measurement of biocapacity of theentire earth - one global hectare is a measurement of the averagebiocapacity of all hectare measurements of any biologicallyproductive areas on the planet. If we take the sum of the worldsbiocapacity, then divide it by the number hectares on the Earthssurface, we get the biocapacity of one average earth hectare.Source: Global Footprint Network,2011 27
  28. 28. Method Selected for Determining Carbon Uptake Land Component Method CO2 Protocols ÷ CO2 Sequestration Factor × Equivalency Factor (tons) (tons/acre/year) (gha/year) Energy Food Scaling Factor to Goods Required Amount of Biologically Services Convert into a Universal Productive Area to Absorb the Transportation Unit of Biologically Waste Produced CO2 Water Productive Area - “Global Hectare”Source: Xu & Martin (2010) 28