WWF- Hong Kong today releases the Hong Kong Ecological Footprint Report 2010 which demonstrates that Hong Kong people are living beyond the Earth’s limits. According to the report, if everyone in the world lived a similar lifestyle to that of Hong Kong people, we would need the equivalent resources of 2.2 Earths. Hong Kong has the 45th largest Ecological Footprint per person compared to 150 countries with populations larger than 1 million people in 2007.
The Ecological Footprint measures the extent of human demand for the regenerative capacity of the biosphere. Both quantities are expressed in units of global hectares (gha) (Remark 1). Hong Kong has an average per person Ecological Footprint of 4.0 gha, which is more than double the 1.8 gha of biocapacity – the area actually available to produce resources and absorb CO2 – available per person globally (Remark 2). This report uses 2007 data (Remark 3).
Hong Kong’s excessive reliance on imported resources such as crops, meat, seafood and timber makes it vulnerable to a changing world; an issue that needs to be addressed. “While it is unrealistic to think that Hong Kong could ever be self-sufficient in terms of renewable natural resources, Hong Kong has become excessively reliant on the natural resources of the rest of the planet,” notes Dr Andy Cornish, Director, Conservation at WWF-Hong Kong. “While this reliance has not caused Hong Kong significant difficulties so far, the increasing global ecological overshoot will inevitably mean more global competition for natural resources and is changing the rules of the game – rules that Hong Kong must adapt to. Extreme weather events will be more common as the climate changes, making it even more urgent that we reduce our excessive reliance on imported resources.”
Hong Kong’s carbon Footprint is significant, making up 60 percent of the total Ecological Footprint. While Hong Kong’s per person carbon Footprint is excessive, having grown 24 times since 1962, in terms of proportion, CO2 emissions released in Hong Kong account for only 26 percent of the total carbon Footprint. The remaining 74 percent is embodied in imports, meaning that CO2 is emitted elsewhere to supply imports to Hong Kong. “Hong Kong will have to seriously reduce its carbon Footprint to bring its overall Ecological Footprint down, and that will require a holistic and comprehensive climate and energy strategy,” said Dr Cornish.
In addition, Hong Kong is still consuming seafood and timber products which are mostly from unsustainable sources, although a massive recent increase in Forest Stewardship Council paper providers is evidence of increasing demand for sustainable products. Increases in the consumption of beef per person are less positive, where the beef consumption per person has surged in recent years, contributing to the emission of greenhouse gases.
“We are in a new era where humanity’s growing Ecological Footprint is outpacing what nature is able to renew. In such times of global overshoot, cities and countries that maintain high levels of resource dependence are putting their own economies severely at risk,” said Global Footprint Network President Mathis Wackernagel. “As a region particularly reliant on the ecological health of the rest of the world, Hong Kong stands to benefit from minimizing its resource dependence. The more it can provide a high quality of life for its residents on a smaller Ecological Footprint, Hong Kong will not only address global risks, but more directly, it will make its economy more resilient facing the future.”
WWF calls for immediate actions from Hong Kong businesses and individuals. “Consumers can demand that the seafood and timber products we consume are produced sustainably. In this way we can leverage Hong Kong’s buying power and act as a regional catalyst to drive natural resource producers towards sustainability. In turn, this will create increased and reliable sources of sustainable products supply for Hong Kong,” concluded Dr Cornish. “The potential impacts of climate change overseas to the resources Hong Kong imports provide additional self-interest incentives to increase efficiency, reduce wastage and source sustainably. It is imperative to do so sooner rather than later.”
The Hong Kong Ecological Footprint Report 2010, which is produced in collaboration with Global Footprint Network, provides an invaluable benchmark to track our shift in consumption and the size of our Ecological Footprint. WWF will produce the report every two years, from which trends can be identified and actions proposed.
The release of the Hong Kong Ecological Footprint Report 2010 marks the launch of Earth Hour 2011, a global campaign which aims to show governments, individuals and businesses that it is possible for everyone to take positive actions to conserve our living planet.
Earth Hour 2011, the global lights off campaign, will be held on 26 March, 8:30PM. This year WWF is calling on individual citizens to take the future into their own hands by going beyond the hour, beyond climate and to focus on living for a sustainable future. In 2010, hundreds of millions of people from 4,600 cities across 7 continents turned off their lights for one hour in a show of solidarity for the future of our planet. WWF-Hong Kong invites everyone to join Earth Hour and expects at least 2.5 million participants in Hong Kong.
Details of each action over the next two months leading up to the Earth Hour day will be available at wwf.org.hk/earthhour.