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Biodiversity declines as global consumption reaches all-time high

15 May 2012

• We are consuming 50 per cent more natural resources than our planet can sustainably produce

Our ever-growing demand for resources is putting huge pressure on the planet’s biodiversity and threatening our future security and well-being, according to the Living Planet Report 2012, released today by WWF.

The biennial survey of the Earth’s health, produced in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Global Footprint Network, was launched today from the International Space Station by WWF Ambassador and Dutch Astronaut, André Kuipers.

“We only have one Earth. From up here I can see humanity’s footprint, including forest fires, air pollution and erosion – challenges which are reflected in this edition of the Living Planet Report,” said Kuipers from his European Space Agency mission. “While there are unsustainable pressures on the planet, we have the ability to save our home, not only for our benefit, but for generations to come.”

The report measures the health of 9,014 populations of more than 2,600 species – a thousand more populations than have been monitored by previous editions. This data, collated by ZSL, creates the Living Planet Index (LPI), is presented in the report alongside global ecological and water footprint data.

Key findings:

• The global Living Planet Index has declined by up to 30 per cent since 1970.
• It is currently taking 1.5 years for the Earth to absorb the CO2 produced and regenerate the renewable resources that people use within one year
• 2.7 Billion people live in areas that experience severe water shortages for at least one month of the year
• The per capita Ecological Footprint of a high income country such as the USA is currently six times greater than that of a low income country such as Indonesia
• The UK has risen four places from 31st to 27th place in the report’s global consumption ranking, which compares the Ecological Footprint per person, per country
• The top 10 countries with the biggest Ecological Footprint per person are: Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Denmark, United States of America, Belgium, Australia, Canada, Netherlands and Ireland

According to the global Living Planet Index, declines in biodiversity are highest in low income countries, demonstrating how the poorest and most vulnerable nations are suffering the impacts of the lifestyles of wealthier countries.

David Nussbaum, CEO of WWF-UK said: "In the UK, rather like the calm at the eye of a storm, we don't yet see much of the impact of our daily lives on the environment. But we can’t ignore the damage being done elsewhere in the world by the whirlwind consumerism of wealthy countries. We're now in the danger zone, exceeding the planetary boundaries for natural capital. If we continue to use up our planet’s resources faster than it can replace them, soon we’ll have exploited every available corner of the Earth. Thankfully it’s not too late for us to reverse this trend, but we need to address this with the same urgency and determination that we tackled the systemic financial crisis globally."

Jonathan Baillie, conservation programme director with the Zoological Society of London said: “This report is like a planetary check-up and the results indicate we have a very sick planet. Ignoring this diagnosis will have major implications for humanity. We can restore the planet’s health, but only through addressing the root causes, population growth and over-consumption of resources.”

Mathis Wackernagel, President of Global Footprint Network said: “Growing external resource dependencies are putting countries at significant risk. The ecological crisis is becoming a driver for our growing economic pain. Using ever more nature, while having less is a dangerous strategy, yet most countries continue to pursue this path. Until countries begin tracking and managing their biocapacity deficits, they not only put the planet at risk, but more importantly, themselves.”

The Living Planet Report: On the Road to Rio
This year’s LPR has been released to coincide with the Rio+ 20 Summit (UN Conference on Sustainable Development), taking place in Brazil in June.

In 1992, world leaders came together to put in place systems to ensure that we tackled climate change and addressed falling biodiversity levels. Twenty years on from the last Earth Summit, this meeting is a key opportunity for global leaders to renew their commitment to creating a sustainable future.

“With every day of inaction, we limit the choices for future generations,” said David Nussbaum. “If we keep running down the stock of natural capital, we'll hand them a world less able to sustain life and absorb environmental shocks. Since the original Earth Summit, we've taken some steps forward, but the pace is glacial. So Rio+20 needs to elevate the urgency of action on the scale needed: now is our chance to reflect whether the future we're creating for our planet is the legacy we want to leave for future generations.”

WWF is calling on the public to show that they care about the planet’s future in advance of Rio+20. To join in with the campaign visit: www.earthbook2012.com

KEY MATERIALS:

All materials including the full Living Planet Report, The Living Planet Report’s Executive Summary, WWF’s The Living Planet Report: On the Road to Rio+20, images and b:roll are available for download here.

For further information please contact:
Jo Sargent |WWF-UK | t: 01483 412 375 | m: 07867 697 519 | jsargent@wwf.org.uk
Smita Chandra| Zoological Society of London| t: 020 7449 6288 | smita.chandra@zsl.org

Notes to Editors:

1. The Living Planet Report outlines a number of solutions needed to reverse the declining Living Planet Index and bring the Ecological footprint down to within planetary limits. These are set out as 16 priority actions and include improved consumption patterns, putting an economic value on natural capital and creating legal and policy frameworks that manage equitable access to food, water and energy.

About WWF
WWF is one of the world's largest independent conservation organisations, with more than five million supporters and a global network active in more than one hundred countries. We're working to create solutions to the most serious environmental issues facing our planet, so that people and nature can thrive. Through our engagement with the public, businesses and government, we focus on safeguarding the natural world, tackling climate change and changing the way we live. Find out more about our work, past and present at www.wwf.org.uk

About ZSL
Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity: our role is the conservation of animals and their habitats. ZSL runs ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, carries out scientific research
in the Institute of Zoology and is actively involved in field conservation in over 50 countries worldwide. www.zsl.org

About GFN
Global Footprint Network promotes a sustainable economy by advancing the Ecological Footprint, a tool that makes sustainability measurable. Together with its partners, the network coordinates research, develops methodological standards and provides decision makers with robust resource accounts to help the human economy operate within the Earth’s ecological limits. www.footprintnetwork.org

About ESA
The European Space Agency (ESA) is Europe’s gateway to space. Its mission is to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space continues to deliver benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world. ESA is an international organization with 19 member states. By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, it can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country. The Agency’s various programmes are designed to find out more about Earth, its immediate space environment, our solar system and the universe. www.esa.int


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