China Ecological footprint
© Susetta Bozzi / WWF ChinaBeijing, China - Increasing consumption associated with economic growth and urbanization are placing growing pressure on China’s natural environment, reveals the 2012 edition of WWF’s China Ecological Footprint Report, a biennial survey on the country’s demand on nature.
Produced in collaboration with the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research (IGSNRR) and Institute of Zoology (IOZ) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Global Footprint Network (GFN) and Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the third edition of the report shows that although China’s per capita Ecological Footprint – or demand the country places on the natural environment - is lower than the global average, the nation is already consuming 2.5 times its biocapacity, the capacity to regenerate natural resources and absorb carbon emissions.
Carbon remains the largest component of China’s overall Ecological Footprint, increasing from 10 per cent in 1961 to 54 percent in 2008. Only a small portion of this comes from direct consumption of fuel or electricity in households or of gasoline for transport – the vast majority are indirect emissions, embodied in consumer goods and services, which account for up to 90 per cent of carbon footprint in some regions.
The drivers of the average Chinese person’s Ecological Footprint have also changed, with a significant turning point around 1985 when growth rates of per capita consumption outstripped production efficiency.
“Of all the demands China is now placing on its environment, carbon emissions are having the biggest impact by far. More than ever, the country needs innovative solutions to reduce its carbon footprint - production efficiency needs to improve, and consumers need to shift their choice to low footprint products.” added Dr. Li Lin.
The report shows that rapid urbanization is having a big impact on China’s footprint, with urban areas registering much higher per capita footprints than rural areas across all mainland provinces. Urbanization often comes in tandem with increasing income, which in turn leads to the growth and change of consumption patterns.
However, findings also show that rural areas face unique challenges in ensuring the health of their natural resources.
“In Beijing’s urban core, the average household consumes less energy than homes in its rural peripheries. Urban density has a lot to do with this, as does access to better public transportation and other services mainly found in cities, ” said Dr. Li.
“But reducing the nation's footprint isn't challenge faced by cities alone - it requires balanced development in urban and rural areas and the promotion sustainable consumption patterns outside of major population centers, ” she added.