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Ecological Footprint: Creating Sustainable Society


  Ecological footprint issue has been one of the focuses of WWF, with a series of Living Planet Reports published in the past several years, covering both Living Planet Index and ecological footprint. Concentrating on ecological footprint in China, the CCICED-WWF joint project has best demonstrated the attitude of Chinese government in addressing environmental problems. My short speech consists of three parts, complexity and urgency of global environmental problems, concept of ecological footprint and preliminary results of our research.

  First, the theme of the Annual General Meeting, Innovation for Environmentally Friendly Society, has undertaken the importance of innovations in science and technology, which are critical to the realization of the theme as well as the target of Ecological Civilization, recently set by President Hu Jintao. As an innovative tool, research into ecological footprint in a country can help us obtain a general picture about environmental problems, i.e. forest, fishery, water and climate change, all of which are in an urgency to be immediately dealt with, either in China and over the world, as the decisions made today may have long-term impacts on our future consumption patterns and levels of sustainability. In the face of the complexity of the problems, we need to formulate consolidated strategies for transformation. In this context, ecological footprint may be helpful for both governmental decision and public awareness.

  Second, I would like to share with you figures of ecological footprint either in China and the world. Expressed in the unit of global hectare, the Ecological Footprint measures the human demand for bio-capacity on the planet, including both natural resources and waste absorbing. Global ecological footprint consists of several components, like cropland, forest and fossil fuels, etc., which in the year 2003 was 25% above the global bio-capacity. In terms of individual nations, USA was responsible for 20% of the global footprint while its population accounting for only 5% in the world; China ranked third in aggregate footprint after USA and EU. In addition to its domestic impacts, ecological footprint in China has international influence as well. Our joint project has an international team of experts, from USA-based Global Footprint Network and the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resource Research with the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The preliminary research has shown that in the past forty years per capita ecological footprint in China more than doubled and its aggregate footprint in 2003 was two times larger than its own bio-capacity, apparently in a state of ecological deficit. Of course, in terms of per capita footprint, China is still at a lower level. Our footprint study also analyzes cross-border net flows of bio-capacity, which intends to explain the supply chain from Chinese imports of timber, agricultural products and fishery products, to production in China and further to Chinese exports of manufactured goods to other regions. We have also tried to link Human Development Index to ecological footprint and found that the more countries moving higher in Human Development Index the higher in ecological footprint as well. China followed the same route in its development of past twenty more years. Our objective is to keep per capita footprint at a relatively lower level through building of Ecological Civilization while increasing human development level in China.

  The last point is to ensure achievement of the targets in the 11th Five-Year Plan is crucial, which would serve a good start for the following planning phases. In this regard, we need to care those investment decisions leading to high consumption patterns over time. Meanwhile, about one half of ecological footprint in China comes from fossil fuel, which is key to tackle climate change challenge.

  Re-edited from shorthand notes


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