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Our New #pledgefortheplanet: New grant to help one city or region reduce its Footprint

By | Earth Overshoot Day | No Comments

Calgary skylineTo push Earth Overshoot Day later on the calendar, we need not only individuals but also cities, regions and nations to embrace this challenge.

Thanks to a new grant, we at Global Footprint Network can make a #pledgefortheplanet to work with one city, region or country that wants to reduce its Ecological Footprint – PRO BONO.

What Global Footprint Network offers: We will analyze a specific project or program of the city or region. Potential projects include a new urban development, an energy-efficiency policy, an electric car fleet purchase, or solar panel subsidies, to name just a few of the endless possibilities. We will assess both the Ecological Footprint saved by the project and its potential financial returns. See more on our framework here.

If you are interested, email us at media@footprintnetwork.org. All we need is a simple email that tells us who you are and what you would like to do. We will then set up short phone interviews to determine which project would be the best match.

Read our case study on Calgary, Canada (pictured).

Learn more about city Footprints.

The day after the Paris Agreement: What does it change?

By | COP 21 in Paris | No Comments

pollution656x434By Izabella Teixeira
Former Environment Minister of Brazil

[Read a version of this blog post in Portuguese here.]

 

In December 2015, the world decided, in Paris, on a new global agreement to combat climate change. The Paris Agreement established an innovative legal framework to ensure compulsory, transparent and progressive commitment (without setbacks) of all signatory countries of the Climate Convention to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. It actually raises the issue of climate change as a strategic variable of global development in this century.

The Paris Agreement clearly states the path of the low-carbon economy and inclusive development.  The common understanding of the need to change the vision and decision-making on economy and development justified the decision. With it, producing (goods) and protecting (environment and natural resources) are actions that will be more and more at the centrality of global and national decisions on development and social inclusion.

Many wonder if the agreement is enough. This is the first step of a new political process where all societies are part of the solution. We will have to deal more and more, on a daily basis, with the uncertainties and vulnerabilities associated with climate phenomena and its economic, social, ecological and environmental impacts.

Although (political and scientific) uncertainty is still large, the climate global agenda is no longer limited (or priority) to mitigation actions. We will have to keep pace with adaptation measures to climate change, where the challenge requires new approaches to efficient allocation of natural resources and the planned use of urban and rural territories.

In this new world of low-carbon, waste and unsustainability in the use of natural resources should be banned. Efficiency, decarbonization of the economy, minimizing risks and vulnerabilities should gain a progressive role in planning and decision-making in alternatives to economic growth and development financing.

Science will certainly continue to play its role to assess the effects of climate change brought about by anthropocentrism, which results in the increased temperature of the planet.  However, it is a matter for all of us to adopt new attitudes towards the challenges the climate agenda holds. We cannot wait for the future. We must act now and bring about urgent changes in the way we live and use natural resources. It is urgent now for the present!

A new Brazilian economy

In Brazil, the challenges are closely linked to opportunities for inclusive and sustainable development in a new relationship with environmental quality and lifestyles. Our ambition is to be a country prepared for the low carbon economy with more efficient and inclusive options to address the vulnerabilities and risks associated with climate changes and follow the development path.

By 2020, when the Paris Agreement should come into force, we should promote changes in agriculture, energy, transport, industry, in our cities, and in the protection of forests to actually wend the new way of the low carbon economy.

Although Brazil is the country that, for the past ten years, has been offering major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions due to the fight against illegal deforestation in the Amazon, we must do more! Illegal deforestation of our forests reveals, besides to environmental crime, the waste and crude vision of development, which should be banned. It is urgent to be cleared out not only in the Amazon but in all Brazilian biomes. We will also have to restore forests, capture carbon and make forestry a source of development and environmental protection.

The world expects Brazil to be the largest producer of food in the coming years and to do so, we must ensure low-carbon agriculture paths (ABC Plan) and increase the recovery of pastures and degraded areas. There is no need to lose biodiversity to advance in food production.  The means are already known: technological gains and agricultural productivity, new infrastructure arrangements and low-carbon logistics, water security and the compliance of the New Forest Code should model our food production, our contribution to global food security and the end of wasteful production and consumption of food in Brazil.

In energy, we have the challenge of moving towards a renewable energy matrix without compromising energy security and supply, and defining the most relevant efficiency. The integration of means of transportation, the sustainable mobility options in our cities and new urban settlement processes are essential for the new models of production and lifestyles in the “low carbon era.”

Global decisions on climate change are not separated from our daily choices of consumption, land use, the way of living and having. We can choose to live better with less environmental impact, in a more inclusive and fairer way. Less vulnerable, with economic growth, knowledge, and new technologies, as well as quality of life. In fact, we must build lifestyles in which we are part of the solutions, not the problems.

Food losses and waste: a challenge to sustainable development

By | Earth Overshoot Day | No Comments


By José Graziano da Silva

Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations

[Read a version of this blog post in Portuguese here.]

 

We are all committed to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. A key goal we have set for ourselves is to attain zero hunger by 2030. Managing agriculture and food systems in a sustainable manner is key to reaching our shared goals. We have made these commitments knowing that we already produce enough food to feed every one, although almost 800 million people are still suffering from hunger. At the same time, more than 2 billion people are “over nourished,” either overweight or obese. The food systems have not performed in line with our expectations.

Food waste is one of the important manifestations of the inefficiencies that plague our food systems. The world has recognized the problem. One of the SDG targets states that, by 2030, we should reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses, and cut in half per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels.

cereals_enFood losses and waste occur along the entire agricultural value chain and at all stages from the farm to the table. Preliminary estimates show that up to 1.3 billion tonnes of food are lost and wasted per year[i], equivalent to 24 percent of all food calories produced for human consumption[ii]. These totals encompass the entire value chain. Of these, losses on the farm, at storage and handling account for more than 520 million tonnes, equivalent to nearly 8 percent of all food calories produced. Losses on the farm and during storage are particularly high in poorer countries, exceeding 1 billion tonnes or nearly 12 percent of all calories produced in Africa.

Food losses take a heavy toll on food security …

The high burden of food losses in low-income countries often results from insufficient or obsolete harvest and post-harvest technologies; from often woefully inadequate storage, transportation, processing and cooling facilities; from a lack of infrastructure, or poor packaging and marketing systems. And from low prices received by the participants in the value chain, making the net return on investment in appropriate technologies extremely low or negative.

These losses take a huge toll on proceeds available to farmers — especially small farmers — with poor access to the means of preventing losses. Losses therefore reduce not only the amount of food directly available to feed the family members of a farm household, but also lower the income available to purchase the foodstuffs necessary to supplement the meagre supplies in the off-season periods. As improved storage and handling facilities also help smooth seasonal shortfalls and preserve the nutrient content, this enhances stability of food supplies as well as food quality and utilisation. In sum, addressing these losses add to all four dimensions of food security, availability, access, utilisation and stability.

… and, at the same time, deepen the resource footprints of food production

cereals_enIn addition to the losses at the primary level, there are even larger quantities lost while primary products are being processed, stored and handled in supermarkets and households. These forms of losses and waste account for 780 million tonnes globally, or 16 percent of all the produced food calories. Avoiding such losses would provide added advantages for food security, for instance by providing the much needed supplies for food banks and safety nets, including in high-income countries.

Avoiding these losses and waste present a large bonus for the Earth’s ecosystems, reducing the deep Footprint that food production and consumption can leave on its resource base. Food losses and waste add to existing pressures on land, water, and biodiversity and are the cause of additional Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, affecting local resources and the global environment. Current food losses and waste estimates indicate that approximately 28 percent of the world’s agricultural land are used to produce food that is never consumed by humans. At the same time, large amounts of energy and water resources are also used throughout the food supply chain to produce, process, store and transport calories that end up wasted. The (GHG) emissions related to food loss and waste are estimated to account for considerable percentage of total emissions. They could be so large that, if food losses and waste were to be concentrated as one country, such a country would be the world’s third-largest emitter, only surpassed by China and the United States[iii].

With growing resource constraints and the need to increase global agricultural production by 60 percent by the year 2050, reducing losses and waste becomes a key element in sustainable global development. To increase food availability, food loss and waste reduction is in principle far more efficient than expanding food production. Hence the global community has agreed on the Sustainable Development Goal number 12 (SDG 12), and identified a specific target (12.3) aiming to halve per capita global food waste and reduce food losses by 2030.

What can be done to reduce food losses and waste, preserve our ecosystems and reduce our impact on climate change?

Food losses and waste must be tackled along the whole food supply chain, to create sustainable food systems.

cereals_enManagerial and technical deficiencies are important causes of food losses in developing countries, especially at the harvest and post-harvest stages. In such cases, simple, low-cost innovations can make a big difference. For example, the introduction of simple elevated racks for drying fish in the Burundian coast of Lake Tanganyika has greatly reduced losses and increased the wellbeing of fish processors, the majority of whom are women. Similarly, an FAO-led project in Uganda, DRC Congo and Burkina Faso provided training to smallholders and helped them purchase plastic bags and metallic containers, substantially reducing food losses compared to when food was stored using traditional facilities such as granaries[iv].

Of course, introducing technical solutions are most effective when other parts of the food supply chain are also functioning properly. Improved on-farm storage may ultimately have little impact on food loss if, for instance, farmers do not have access to markets to sell their produce. Boosting investment in infrastructure and in packaging, transportation and marketing facilities is fundamental. Low prices received by farmers and lack of instruments to manage risk may discourage the adoption of technical and managerial innovations even when those are available and known.

The problem of food waste may be more complex to tackle, as it requires changes in the way we value and consume food. Our current consumption patterns are not sustainable. Food waste is effectively linked to consumer demand, which constantly evolves and is influenced by many cultural and social factors that do not always follow economic or ecological rationality. Thus, consumer awareness is a basic step to improve our abilities in food planning, purchasing and consumption. Education on these matters in schools and political initiatives are important starting points.

Another option is to develop markets for ‘sub-standard’ products and use consumer surveys to influence quality standards. Many private standards, set by retailers to ensure certain characteristics of the products, lead to waste food items that are still perfectly edible but not aesthetic due to their size, colour or shape. Both commercial and charity organizations should be encouraged to arrange for the collection and sale or use of discarded ‘sub-standard’ products that are still safe and of good taste and nutritional value[v].

fish_enRaising awareness is key in all this. The SAVE FOOD initiative, a unique partnership led by FAO involving government, civil society, research and the private sector, is now on its way to raise awareness on the impact of, and solutions for, food losses and waste. Counting on more than 500 companies and organizations, its aim is to facilitate dialogue among stakeholders, drive innovation and evidence for policies and strategies, and raise awareness through a global communication campaign and the organization of regional SAVE FOOD congresses.

Other notable mechanisms include the Global Community of Practice on Food Loss Reduction launched by FAO, IFAD and WFP, and the FAO-supported Food Loss and Waste Protocol and Standard. Building on these existing partnerships, and at the recommendation of the G20, a Technical Platform on the Measurement and Reduction of Food Loss and Waste was launched in late 2015, with the objective to raise awareness, share best practices and improve the measurement of food losses and waste.

 

[i] Global Food Losses and Food Waste, FAO 2011
[ii] Lipinski et al (2013) Reducing Food Loss and Waste, World Resources Institute
[iii] Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources, FAO 2013
[iv] http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/news/New-FAO-project-to-help-African-farmers-cut-food-losses–/-/2558/2690368/-/y88lo5/-/index.html
[v] Global Food Losses and Food Waste, FAO 2011

The responsibility of our generation

By | Unkategorisiert | No Comments

feldmann_cropBy Fabio Feldmann
[Read a version of this blog post in Portuguese here.]

Since the 1950’s, humanity has reached unprecedented consumption patterns, providing undeniable material progress. It is hard to imagine that at the time of our parents and grandparents, cities coexisted with trams and trains and cars were relatively rare, except for some American cities. Agriculture consisted of a few products without access to the technology of fertilizers, manure and pesticides. In the communications field, we have seen the spread of telephone, telex, radio and television, and of course the Internet.

In the 1960’s and 1970’s, we learned that such heavy industrialization and increasing consumption brought a huge price to the environment in terms of pollution and limits to natural resources. In the 1970’s, the book “The Limits to Growth” warns about the threats to the planet. In 1972, the United Nations organized the first major Conference on the Environment in Stockholm, called “Man and the Biosphere”, which stated that the technological and socio-economic processes associated with “development” were compromising the quality of life on Earth. Scientist Rachel Carson in her book “Silent Spring” warns about the impact of pesticides on the environment. Thus, a worldwide awareness about the civilization of consumption begins.

The Age of the Anthropocene

It was only in the 1980’s, with the confirmation of the destruction of the ozone layer, that the criticism took form as an undeniable proof that humanity is able to cause dramatic changes to the planet. Most recently, some scientists have claimed that we are living in the age of the Anthropocene, meaning that humankind has been exerting “geological forces” on the planet and on the living systems that sustain it.

Due to these actions, the idea of planetary boundaries (planetary boundaries) has gained momentum, and several scientists now claim that we must get ready for extremely severe scenarios and dramatic consequences. Scientific studies indicate the existence of these planetary boundaries. We can highlight one of them, published in the Nature Journal (Vol. 461 – 09/24/2009), by Johan Rockstrom, one of the authors and Executive Director of the Stockholm Environment Institute.

The authors identified nine cases in which it is necessary to define planetary boundaries, concluding that three of them have had their limits transgressed so far: climate change; biodiversity loss rate (terrestrial and marine) and interference with the nitrogen cycle. Global freshwater usage, changes in land use, ocean acidification and interference in the phosphorus cycle are already reaching their limits.

The Ecological Footprint

Given this scenario, there is a great effort in trying to quantify the impact we cause on the environment. Then, the idea of Ecological Footprints emerges, co-developed first by Mathis Wackernagel, CEO and co-founder of Global Footprint Network, in order to reveal what individuals, businesses, cities, and countries demand from nature and highlight the role of governments in managing our natural capital more wisely to ensure all live well, within the means of our planet. Global Footprint Network’s data shows that this year, on August 8, our global population has used more resources than the planet can regenerate in the entire year. We call this day Earth Overshoot Day.

Eating habits, choices on clothing and transportation, purchase of household appliances at the individual level, combined with decisions about highways and infrastructure and how we build our cities, at the government level, have local and global impacts, and the most visible today is represented by global warming.

Our generation has greater responsibility for the future of the planet. The most important scientific studies point to the need for a dramatic reduction in the release of greenhouse gases in the next three decades. In case it does not occur, the change of the climate system may compromise food production, cause large-scale natural disasters, require the resettlement of populations from coastal areas…

In simple words, we have to radically change the consumption patterns practiced today, and understand that the paradigm of consuming more and more does not bring welfare and happiness. On the contrary, it destroys the maintainability of natural processes and from a social point of view, it increases inequality. Sustainability and sustainable development mean to create conditions so that we can rethink the idea that economic growth itself is able to promote the satisfaction of material and non-material needs of our society.

From Autos to Apps

The car, the main symbol of the last century, does not meet the requirements for mobility in urban centers. On the contrary, cities are increasingly congested and polluted, and young people are showing much greater openness to public and non-motorized transport options. Cycling and “walking on foot” allow people to move and benefit from the urban landscape in a different way. More and more, digital apps stimulate what is now called the sharing economy. In the same direction, the expansion of solar energy allows self-sustainability and the generation of revenue by commercializing their surpluses.

If it is true that humanity’s demand on nature has exceeded the capacity of complex ecosystems to continue providing environmental services and their corresponding natural resources, it is also undeniable that there is an ongoing revolution of values and new lifestyle impositions. This sets up the hope that our generation will be able to leave a legacy of dignity and sustainability.

Fabio Feldmann is business leader, lawyer and environmental activist. A member of Global Footprint Network’s Advisory Council, Feldman was responsible for preparing the chapter on the environment in the Brazilian Constitution. Learn more about him here

This article was first published by the Museu do Amanhã. Visit the museum’s Earth Overshoot Day website at https://museudoamanha.org.br/pt-br/sobrecarga-da-terra

Earth overdraft

It Takes Two to Save the Earth

By | Earth Overshoot Day | No Comments

By Leigh Moyer
Population Organizer for the Center for Biological Diversity

Time is running out. We’re just two weeks out from Earth Overshoot Day — the day when we humans have used all the resources the planet can replenish in a year. Everything after August 8 is borrowed from wildlife and future generations. That probably sounds scary, and that’s because it is. It feels like one of those problems that’s way bigger than you. I mean, what can one person do?

More importantly, what can two people do.

Earth overdraftLet’s back up for a second. What the heck does overshoot mean? Think of the resources the Earth and all its systems create and sustain — like food, fresh water, clean air and healthy soil — as a budget. It’s a pretty big budget that should cover the cost of everyone (and thing) that lives here. But we’ve busted the bank. Humans are now using one and half times the resources the planet can restore each year. Overshoot means we’ve gone way over budget.

Overshoot is about overconsumption. We’re putting more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than the planet can absorb. We’re using more water than rivers and lakes can replenish. We’re using up land at the expense of wildlife habitat. A lot of this comes back to wasteful practices that ignore the impact of industry on the planet. But the sheer number of people plays a role, too. Not only do humans demand a lot of resources, but there are also a lot of us making those demands. A whole lot. Our population has exploded in the last 200 years, from under a billion people in the early 1800s to over 7 billion today.

And this is where those two people come in. In the United States, nearly half of all pregnancies are unintended. So it’s up to every couple to make sure that if their family grows, it’s intentional.

What can you (and your partner) do to help balance our ecological check book?

Read full post on Medium.com

Earth Overshoot Day/EARTH DAY NETWORK

By | Earth Overshoot Day | No Comments

GFN_EOD_logo_2015_150t_trOur lifestyle is not sustainable. In fact, it hasn’t been since the 1970’s when human demands on nature began far exceeding the ability of the Earth to replenish its natural resources. We now live in a state of global ecological overshoot: allowing carbon dioxide to accumulate in the atmosphere, polluting our air and water ways, and causing natural landscapes to wilt into deserts and icecaps to melt into seas.

Read More: Earth Day Network

Creativity Against Earth Overshoot

By | Earth Overshoot Day | No Comments

Seven artists submitted their creative work to our Earth Overshoot Day competition with Do the Green Thing, a UK-based nonprofit. Please take a look at their wonderful work at the bottom of this post!

Artists were asked to photograph, illustrate or design artwork related to Earth Overshoot Day, and the winner was offered £200 and the opportunity to have his or her artwork featured on the websites of Earth Overshoot Day and Do the Green Thing.

The official winner is Sean Antonioli, who created the first image below. Here is what Sean writes of his work:

“Responding to the Population aspect that families should become better educated about ecological issues, my piece is a call for parents to take the lead and show by doing.  The recent campaigns for electric cars show a more educated alternative to our current petrol driven habits. As parents include a charge up in their routine, children watch and mimic. In a way, they are learning better habits for our planet. ‘Lead the way’ calls parents to think about how they pass down a greener mindset and set our children up for a better future.”

Congratulations, Sean, and thanks to all the artists for dedicating their valuable time to help end overshoot!

Tim Gulden

Tim Gulden
(click and zoom for full image)

 

Survey: Less than half of Americans are very aware of natural resource constraints

By | Unkategorisiert | No Comments

Tetra Pak and Global Footprint Network poll reveals that sharing information about resource scarcity impacts consumer behaviors.

Although resoutetrapak_crop300rce constraints are not a top-of-mind issue for American consumers, attitudes, actions and perceptions shift when knowledge and information about resource scarcity is shared, according to a survey from Tetra Pak Inc. undertaken with Global Footprint Network and published today.

The findings come as the world marks Earth Overshoot Day, the day humanity has used up nature’s budget for the entire year. Humanity’s demand on the planet has moved Earth Overshoot Day from early October in 2000 to August 13this year. Carbon sequestration makes up more than half of that demand, according to Global Footprint Network.

Only 41 percent of respondents reported being very aware of the issue of resource constraints in the survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers by Tetra Pak and Global Footprint nNetwork. However, an overwhelming number of respondents (86 percent) said that if they knew that using renewable packaging helped reduce carbon emissions and slow climate change, it would impact their choice of packaging. This was particularly the case with women—90 percent of women would choose renewable packaging if they knew it would help cut carbon emissions vs. 77 percent of men.

“With the heightened focus on climate change ahead of the U.N. Climate Conference in Paris in December, it is important not to overlook the role that renewable materials and renewable packaging can play in keeping the climate in balance,” said Elisabeth Comere, Director, Environment & Government Affairs, Tetra Pak Inc., USA.

“Our survey confirms our belief that with information and education, consumers will respond favorably to the need to pay closer attention to resource challenges and change their individual actions, including making more environmentally responsible decisions around packaging,” Commere added.

The survey also explored specific actions respondents would be willing to do to conserve natural resources, such as pay more for water and restrict use, or search for clean, renewable energy alternatives.

The top three actions that respondents said they would be willing to take were seeking out food or beverages that came in renewable packaging. buying locally grown food as much as possible, and buying only the food that a household was going to consume and consuming all the food bought.

”How we meet our basic needs—including food—is a powerful way to shape sustainability. Eating food from local sources and reducing our reliance on animal protein can lower the Ecological Footprint,” said Mathis Wackernagel, president and co-founder of Global Footprint Network. ”When we buy packaged foods, opting for packaging made from renewable materials also contributes to a lower Ecological Footprint.”

Overwhelmingly, respondents (81 percent) said that no one group (individuals, industry, government) is especially responsible for addressing natural resource constraints. They also support the need to do more—from changing their own behaviors to recognizing the need for companies to consider all facets of the lifecycle of products and packaging.

More information on the survey of U.S. consumers

More information on Tetra Pak’s Moving to the Front Campaign

 

tetrapak656

Aug. 12: Reddit AMA with Mathis Wackernagel, Global Footprint Network

By | Unkategorisiert | No Comments

Check out Reddit at 1 apm. PST August 12 for an “Ask Me Anything” with Mathis Wackernagel, president of Global Footprint Network.

Here is more information, as posted on Reddit:  www.reddit.com/r/IAmA

Hello Redditors!

I am Mathis Wackernagel, the co-inventor of the Ecological Footprint and the co-founder of Global Footprint Network. I am from Switzerland originally, but now live in California.

Our calculations show that we are using the natural resources equivalent to 1.6 planets. In other words, humanity’s demand on the planet is 60 percent larger than what the planet can renew. It is like spending 60 percent more than what we are earning. As a consequence we are using up Earth’s savings.

Similarly, our calculations show that we would need four Earths if everyone lived like Americans. Or three Earths if they lived like Danes.

Because we use more than what Earth can renew, we eat through the annual budget of nature way before the year ends. In fact, August 13 is Earth Overshoot Day, the date when we have exhausted the planet’s ecological budget for 2015. The date fell in October back in 2000.

We calculate those dates through our Ecological Footprint accounts. They track how much biologically productive space we have in the world, in the US, or in California. And then we can compare this to how much biologically productive space is needed for all that we consume—food, fiber, timber—and also to absorb our waste, particularly CO2 from fossil fuel burning.

You may want to test the results. This is what we have done with about 12 nations and international organizations (www.footprintnetwork.org/reviews). They have confirmed the findings.

You can find out more about Earth Overshoot Day at www.overshootday.org, which will go live on Tuesday, August 11.

June 30: India Ecological Deficit Day

By | Ecological Deficit Day | One Comment

India_656

June 30th marks the ecological deficit day of India in 2015 . The nation’s demand for food, timber and carbon dioxide absorption now exceeds what the nation’s ecosystems can renew over the full year, according to Global Footprint Network’s 2015 National Footprint Accounts. It would take two Indias to support India residents’ Ecological Footprint.

When a nation like India is in ecological deficit it meets demand by importing, liquidating its own ecological assets and/or using the global commons by emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. See how much nature India has and how much its residents use in the figure below:

blog_india_timeseries

Indians consistently have one of the lowest per capita Ecological Footprints in the world, among the lowest 15% of all countries for 2011. The cropland and forest Footprints were the largest components of India’s overall Ecological Footprint until the late 1980s, when the carbon Footprint exceeded the forest Footprint, and the late 2000s, when carbon exceeded the cropland Footprint.

Photo courtesy of Catherine Cunningham/Nature’s Reflection Photography. 20% of net sales from print purchases will be donated to Global Footprint Network with coupon code GFN2015.