Newsletter Issue 34, July 8, 2014 - Footprint Network News

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Issue 34, July 8, 2014  


Making Headway

“Ecological footprint” has become a common term, right along “Googling” and “selfie.” That's according to Laura Jane Martin, a Scientific American guest blogger and National Science Foundation graduate fellow at Cornell University. We are encouraged to receive confirmation that the concept which is the very foundation of our work has evolved from obscurity to common knowledge over the eleven years of our existence.

Our progress isn’t limited to awareness within the popular and scientific press. In fact, we are thrilled to announce that we've made significant headway in the financial world. Since launching our Environmental Risk in Sovereign Credits (E-RISC) report with the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative in November 2012, discourse about the impact of resource constraints on national economies has been finding a wider audience. You can read this executive perspective by Global Footprint Network CEO Susan Burns on financial news agency Thomson Reuters’ website to learn more.

We have been moving and the finance industry has been moving with us. Rating agency Standard & Poor's made history last month when it published the very first report to forecast the impact that climate change could have on nations' creditworthiness. We couldn't be happier about what we consider to be a clear signal of the credit rating agency's acceptance that environmental risks may have a material impact on sovereign credit risk. For more details, read what Burns wrote on our blog. She also has this to say about it:

Please note that the second phase of E-RISC is being launched as you read this. Stay tuned for more details to come.

Ecological Footprint in the News

Does accounting for natural resources make one a pessimist? We think not. In April, Global Footprint Network founder and President Mathis Wackernagel made the case that accounting for renewable natural resources in order to evaluate whether we live within our means — or not — is what rational optimists do. His published comment was a response to a long essay in the Wall Street Journal by Matt Ridley. In the article — which earned the Global Footprint Network a mention — the author of“The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves” argues that ecologists and economists are two tribes at odds over the issue of the availability of natural resources: Ecologists are living in the limited world of fixed ecological resources, while economists are trusting in human ingenuity to break through resource barriers over and over again.

Accounting for resources, responds Dr. Wackernagel, doesn't imply the belief that humanity has to fail. The reality is that sometimes innovation has overcome ecological limits and sometimes it has not. The question is which of the two is gaining the upper hand. Only by measuring can we ensure our policies are helping us succeed. Both article and comment are very well worth a read.

Speaking of rational optimists, we applaud international security journalist and academic Nafeez Ahmed, a regular contributor to The Guardian, for stressing that "if governments and economic agents anticipate resource constraints and act in a constructive manner, many of the worst effects can be avoided." That view is precisely aligned with our work and our own belief. We are grateful to him for his commitment to convey that message from his influential pulpit as often as he does.

Ecological Footprint in Action

The United Arab Emirates announced its Energy Efficiency Lighting Standard, the latest program since the launch of the UAE Ecological Footprint Initiative. Only energy efficient indoor-lighting products will be available throughout the territory six months from now. The UAE, who has one of the world’s highest per capita Ecological Footprints, intends to significantly reduce its energy consumption and per capita Ecological Footprint.

We are gearing up to work with Morocco on reviewing their 15-year strategy for sustainable development in agriculture, Plan Maroc Vert, through the lens of the Ecological Footprint. Morocco is interested in collaborating with Global Footprint Network to comprehensively assess to what extent the plan contributes to the sustainability of the agriculture sector as well as a society-wide transition towards sustainability.

News from the Network

We are thrilled to welcome the Millennium Institute to our network. For over 30 years, the D.C.-based non-profit has been striving to help governments implement policies for sustainable development through complex dynamic models that integrate Ecological Footprint data. They also were a key contributor to the Green Economy Report that the United Nations Environment Program used as a basis for multinational conversations ahead of the 2012 Earth Summit in Rio. We are excited that they are committed to advancing the science of the Ecological Footprint through their work around the world. And we can't wait to see what opportunities for joint projects the future will bring.

We're also happy to announce that Argentinian and Belgian business consultancies Sustentator and Climact, respectively, have joined the network. We thank them for the contribution they will make to advance the Ecological Footprint in their regions' business sector.

In the Netherlands, PhD candidate Lukas Figge, our partner from ICIS (International Centre for Integrated assessment and Sustainable development, Maastricht University, Netherlands), recently published a paper that incorporates the Ecological Footprint into a globalization index, “Globalisation continues: the Maastricht Globalisation Index Revisited and Updated” (Figge & Martens, 2014). As Lukas points out, “no other globalisation index includes the ecological dimension.”

Last but not least, Philippines' Climate Change Commissioner Naderev Saño, Global Footprint Network’s partner and advocate, is featured in Showtime’s Years of Living Dangerously, James Cameron's documentary series about the impact of climate change. Each of the nine episodes opens with an excerpt of his impassioned speech on the first day of the COP19 Climate Change Summit in Poland, 11 November 2013. You can watch it by clicking here, then scroll to 7:14-7:33.

Research Department

The Ecological Footprint could be valuable as an indicator to help track progress towards the goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity, according to Global Footprint Network researchers’ latest publication in Biological Conservation. Pressures such as habitat loss and species overexploitation stem from human demands for food and energy. Combined with other indicators, the Ecological Footprint can help track drivers of biodiversity loss and create a comprehensive monitoring system. The European Commission’s current issue of Science for Environment Policy featured the research as well.

In the Mediterranean region, people’s average Ecological Footprint grew by 52 percent from 1961 to 2008 while per capita biocapacity decreased by 16 percent over the same period. Global Footprint Network researchers explore the links between the Mediterranean region’s ecological and economic crises in a new Resources journal paper.

Donate Through Amazon

Amazon members, did you know you can donate to Global Footprint Network every time you shop?

1. Go to AmazonSmile and make us your charitable organization of choice.
2. Every time you shop, Amazon donates 0.5 percent of the price of your eligible purchases to us.
3. Please share this on Twitter.

Thank you for your support!

About Global Footprint Network
Our mission is to promote a sustainable economy by advancing the Ecological Footprint, a measurement tool that makes the reality of planetary limits relevant to decision-makers.
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