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Living Planet Report 2010 launched

13 October 2010

Ecological overshoot rockets whilst tropics suffer catastrophic declines in biodiversity - 2010 Living Planet Report launched

Populations of tropical species are plummeting and humanity’s demands on natural resources are sky-rocketing to 50 per cent more than the earth can sustain, new analysis in the 2010 edition of WWF’s Living Planet Report – the leading survey of the planet’s health ¬– reveals.

The biennial publication, produced in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London and the Global Footprint Network, uses the global Living Planet Index (LPI) as a measure of the health of almost 8,000 populations of more than 2,500 species alongside indicators of ecological and water footprint.

The 2010 report finds that our demand on natural resources has doubled since 1966 and globally, we’re using the equivalent resources of 1.5 planets to support our activities. Although the UK finds itself 31st in the report’s table of Ecological Footprint per country, per person, we fall firmly in the group of countries consuming way beyond the Earth’s resources. If the rest of the world consumed as we do in the UK, we’d be using the equivalent resources of 2.75 planets to sustain our lifestyles. A continuation of current trends on a global scale would mean that by 2030 we’d need the equivalent of two planets’ productive capacity to meet our annual demands.

“In the UK, all of us – government, businesses and individuals – need fundamentally to re-think our relationship with the planet” said David Nussbaum, CEO of WWF-UK. “This report shows that we need a new green economy which assigns genuine value to the benefits we get from nature: biodiversity, the natural systems which provide goods and services like water, and ultimately our own well-being. The new coalition government can take a lead by putting green investment and real sustainability at the heart of its decision-making.”

“The loss of biodiversity and habitats undermines the natural systems upon which we depend for the food we eat, the air we breathe and the stable climate we need. The depletion of natural resources caused by human consumption also poses risks to our economic security: for instance, scarcity of resources and degraded natural systems will increase the price of food, raw materials and other commodities. So the time to take action is now.”

Further findings of the Living Planet Report:

• Starkly divergent trends are emerging between tropical and temperate regions. The tropical LPI has declined by 60 per cent while the temperate LPI has increased by almost 30 per cent. The recovery of species’ populations in temperate areas could be thanks in part to greater conservation efforts and improvements in pollution and waste control.

• Tracked populations of freshwater tropical species have fallen by nearly 70 per cent – greater than any species’ decline measured on land or in our oceans.

• New analysis in the report shows that the steepest declines in biodiversity fall in low-income countries, with a nearly 60 per cent decline in less than 40 years.

• The biggest footprint is found in high-income countries, on average five times that of low-income countries. This suggests that unsustainable consumption in wealthier nations depends largely on depleting the natural resources of poorer yet ‘resource rich’ tropical countries.

• High footprint and high levels of consumption, which often come at the cost of others, are not reflected in higher levels of development. The UN Human Development Index, which looks at life expectancy, income and educational attainment, can be high in countries with moderate footprint.

• Carbon is a major culprit in driving the planet to ecological overdraft. An alarming 11-fold increase in our carbon footprint over the last five decades means carbon now accounts for more than half the global Ecological Footprint.

• The top 10 countries with the biggest Ecological Footprint per person are the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Denmark, Belgium, United States, Estonia, Canada, Australia, Kuwait and Ireland. The 31 OECD countries, which include the world’s richest economies, account for nearly 40 per cent of the global footprint. While there are twice as many people living in BRIC countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China – as there are in OECD countries, the report shows the current rate of per-person footprint of the BRIC countries puts them on a trajectory to overtake the OECD bloc if they follow same development path.

For the first time, the report looks at how changes in diet and energy sources could affect the Ecological Footprint. A key issue considered is ‘land competition’, with pressures on production of forest products and food putting into question whether we have enough land available to preserve essential ecosystem services. A comparison of the relative impact of Italian and Malaysian diets compares scenarios for 2050 in which 9.2billion people eating a typical Malaysian diet would consume the resources of just under 1.3 planets, whilst following an Italian diet would take us closer to 2 planets. Therefore those choices in diet and energy consumption we make in the UK will be critical to reducing footprint, and improved efforts to value and invest in our natural capital will be essential.

“Species are the foundation of ecosystems,” said Jonathan Baillie, Conservation Programme Director with the Zoological Society of London. “Healthy ecosystems form the basis of all we have – lose them and we destroy our life support system.”

"Countries that maintain high levels of resource dependence are putting their own economies at risk,” said Mathis Wackernagel, President of the Global Footprint Network. “Those countries that are able to provide the highest quality of life on the lowest amount of ecological demand will not only serve the global interest, they will be the leaders in a resource-constrained world."

For further information, images and interview requests:

• WWF:

Benjamin Ward, bward@wwf.org.uk, mob +44 7837 134 193
Natalia Reiter, nreiter@wwfint.org , +41 22 3649550, mob; +41 798738099
• GFN:

Nicole Achs Freeling, nicole@footprintnetwork.org , +1-510-839-8879 x 302
Pati Poblete, pati@footprintnetwork.org, +1-510- 839-8879 ext. 320

• ZSL:
Victoria Picknell, victoria.picknell@zsl.org, +44 20 7449 6361


NOTES TO EDITORS:

About WWF
WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with almost 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. www.wwf.org.uk


About ZSL
Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity: our key 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
The 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


Family cycling along a country road in Wales, UK