The China Ecological Footprint Report 2010", jointly published by WWF and China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED), explores the country's challenges and opportunities in an increasingly resource-constrained world.
Over the past three decades China's per capita income has grown by more than 50 times as a result of economic development. However, rapid industrialization, urban development and intensive agriculture have increased the pressure on nature.
"Our environment is the basis for life and human development. Due to rapid social and economic development in recent years, environmental issues are increasingly becoming a bottleneck for future economic growth," said Zhu Guangyao, Secretary General of CCICED. "The next twenty years will be critical for China to realize sustainable development. With this in mind, it is the goal of the Chinese government to accelerate the formation of a resource efficient and environmentally-friendly society."
A world consuming resources and producing wastes at Chinese levels for 2007 would need the equivalent of 1.2 planets to support its activities, compared to 0.8 of a planet at 2003 Chinese consumption levels. The global average in 2007 was 1.5 planets, meaning that it would take 1.5 years for the Earth to regenerate the resources used and to absorb the CO2 emitted that year.
Carbon emissions and individual wealth have become the major factors influencing China's Ecological Footprint.
"Raising awareness of China's footprint is a crucial step in China's efforts to improve the well-being of its people without jeopardizing their future," said Jim Leape, WWF International Director General. "This analysis tells us that to achieve its goal of a 'harmonious society,' China must find ways to grow its economy while protecting the natural systems upon which the economy, and society, depend - from the Yangtze River to the Amazon forest."
In 2008, carbon footprint associated with energy demand for buildings, transport, consumption of goods and provision of public services account for more than half of China's Ecological Footprint in 29 of China's 31 provinces. In the municipalities of Shanghai, Beijing and Tianjin, and in the industrialized provinces of Shangdong this portion exceeds 65 per cent.
"The analysis clearly indicated the importance of China moving quickly to a low carbon development model and the crucial role that will be played by energy efficiency, cleaner energy and the push to sustainable cities," Leape said.
There are clear differences between rural and urban areas, primarily due to income gaps and consequent variations in consumption and energy utilization.
The analysis suggests that for provinces where per capita GDP exceeds RMB 30,000 (approximately US$ 4,500), Ecological Footprint increases in parallel. In China high-income segments of population are overwhelmingly located in cities, and Ecological Footprint of cities is 1.4 to 2.5 times greater than rural areas.
Beijing has the greatest footprint per person and Yunnan has the smallest. Between 1985 and 2008 Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin, Guangdong and Chongqing have seen the greatest overall growth in their footprint per person.
There are, however, promising signs of China's attempt to achieve sustainable development. The rate of increase in Ecological Footprint has slowed down in most Chinese provinces during 2005-2008 in comparison to 2000-2005. In Beijing, this trend is attributed to a more stable rate of urbanization, together with energy conservation measures and to the transition from a manufacturing to a service economy.
"Today China's global influence is greater than at any time in recent history and by reducing pressure on natural resources through better management and increased efficiency, the country can play an important role in sustaining the global environment while gaining competitiveness," Leape said.
For further information, please contact:
Claudia Delpero, Communications Manager, WWF China for a Global Shift Initiative, WWF Beijing Office, p +86 10 6511 6227, m +86 135 215 88 143, firstname.lastname@example.org
Chen Boping, Senior Footprint Policy Officer, WWF China for a Global Shift Initiative, WWF Beijing Office, p. +86 6511 6232, m. +86 13701115839, email@example.com
Notes to the editors:
- Photos to illustrate this media release are available at the link: https://photos.panda.org/gpn/external?albumId=3978.
- The China Ecological Footprint Report 2010 is co-published by WWF and CCICED (China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development - a high level advisory body to the Chinese Government), with the support of the Global Footprint Network and China's Institute of Geographic Sciences and National Resources Research (IGSNRR) as technical partners.