Magazine article New Zealand Management

THOUGHT LEADER : Building on New Zealanda[euro][TM]s Natural Capital

Magazine article New Zealand Management

THOUGHT LEADER : Building on New Zealanda[euro][TM]s Natural Capital

Article excerpt

Byline: Bob Field

If there is one publication that should be compulsory reading for all global citizens it is the World Wide Fund for Naturea[euro]s a[euro]Living Planet Reporta[euro]. Published every two years, it measures humanitya[euro]s ecological footprint from everyday living and compares it with the Eartha[euro]s bio capacity to sustain that activity.

The 2008 report concluded that the average human footprint was the equivalent of 2.7 hectares per capita compared to the Eartha[euro]s available bio capacity of only 2.1 hectares. This means we already require 1.3 planets to sustain current population and current lifestyles without compromising the human habitat for future generations.

The underlying message from this statistic becomes more alarming when the global numbers are broken down by country. USA citizens with their high standard of living, for example, have a footprint of more than nine hectares per capita whereas for India the figure is less than a single hectare.

A significant element of this footprint differential between developed countries and emerging economies is carbon emissions.

Looking ahead to 2050, Planet Earth faces a rapidly increasing sustainability challenge if we are to absorb the expected explosion in global population from six billion to nine billion and the inevitable rise of living standards in emerging economies such as China and India.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development identified two key elements of this sustainability challenge when it projected the global vehicle fleet to increase threefold in the first half of this century and that global demand for electricity generation would also triple. Unfortunately for Planet Earth, the car and electricity industries are not only two of the biggest global industries, they are also two of the most carbon intensive.

To reverse the inexorable rise in greenhouse gas emissions will now require worldwide cooperation on an unprecedented scale, with the upcoming conference in Copenhagen looming as the most important international gathering of the decade, potentially even, the most important of the century.

How New Zealand fits within this renewed global focus on sustainability represents both a challenge and an opportunity. Although our per capita ecological footprint is nearly three times bigger than the global average, we are one of the few countries in the world with a surplus bio capacity a[euro]" thanks mainly to a low population relative to our natural capital. …

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