Eco-Print Continuing to Grow

Eco-Print Continuing to Grow

Published: May 23, 2012 (Issue # 1709)


Russia’s ecological footprint is mostly due to CO2 emissions. Russians consume 2 1/2 times faster than the Earth produces.

MOSCOW — If everyone lived like Russians, humanity would need 2 1/2 planet Earths to sustain consumption, though this profligacy is dwarfed by the American lifestyle — which would require no less than four planets to sustain on a humanity-wide scale, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

WWF’s Living Planet report was released last week, ahead of the UN’s Rio +20 summit on sustainable development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June.

It warns that the world is currently consuming resources 50 percent faster than they can be replaced — and that figure is rising.

The biannual report, produced in association with the Zoological Society of London and the Global Footprint Network, ranked countries on two indexes: Their “ecological footprint” — how much natural resources people use to supply their renewable resources, meaning everything from animals and plants farmed or hunted for food, to trees that absorb CO2 emissions or are used in building; and “bio capacity” — the area of such land and water that the country has.

The report is part of a push to include environmental health in calculations of economic growth in order to incentivize governments to “do more with less.”

Russia was the 33rd “least rational” consumer, according to the report, needing about 4 1/2 “Earth hectares” of biologically productive land per person per year, the report found. That is generally in line with the EU average of 4.72 hectares per capita.

Most of the Russian footprint (58 percent) comes from land and sea areas needed to absorb its vast carbon emissions, followed by crop raising and forestry. The rest comes from areas used for grazing animals, fishing and building.

Experts said the greatest potential for reducing the country’s footprint lies in energy efficiency. “Energy saving in buildings is the largest reserve for Russia to reduce CO2 emissions,” WWF director Igor Chestin said.

The least sustainable lifestyles are in Qatar, whose residents have a footprint of nearly 12 hectares each.

The global average was 2.7 hectares per person in 2008. At current rates of consumption, it takes the Earth 1 1/2 years to regenerate the renewable resources that humanity uses in one year.

And the report predicts that by 2030 we would need the equivalent of two planet Earths to balance our annual consumption of biological resources.

In an effort to help improve the environmental situation, Federation Council lawmakers may introduce a “green filter” to weed out draft bills that could damage the environment.

Under the plan any new potential law would be subject to assessment by independent environmental experts, Federation Council speaker Valentina Matviyenko said at an environmental conference in St. Petersburg last week.

The move would be in line with an environmental development strategy approved by then-President Dmitry Medvedev on April 30.

The policy document, which codifies the government’s main environmental goals up to 2030, calls for mandatory environmental impact assessment of decisions on economic and other activities and a blanket ban on any project that could lead to a degradation of ecosystems.

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