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New Zealanders have world’s 6th largest footprint

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Press Release Embargoed to 13.01 29 October 2008

New Zealanders have world’s sixth largest footprint

New Zealand’s ecological footprint per capita is now ranked sixth largest in the world according WWF’s Living Planet Report released today, 29 October 2008.

The report, regarded as the leading statement on the planet’s health, shows that only the United Arab Emirates, the United States, Kuwait, Denmark and Australia have larger per capita ecological footprints than New Zealand.

“As a country we are in dubious company in terms of our demands on the planet,” says WWF-New Zealand’s Executive Director Chris Howe. “Beyond that, the Living Planet Report shows us that as our global consumption – as measured by the ecological footprint – is increasing, so biodiversity is declining.”

An ecological footprint measures the amount of resources humans use and the amount of waste we generate. Here in New Zealand, we moved from requiring 5.9 global hectares per person in the 2006 report to an average of 7.7 global hectares per person. A global hectare is a hectare with world-average ability to produce resources and absorb wastes. Worldwide, the average ecological footprint jumped from 2.2 global hectares per person to 2.7 global hectares per person.

Our global biocapacity – the area available to produce our resources and capture our emissions – averages only 2.1 global hectares per person. By comparing humanity’s ecological footprint with global biocapacity the report states that globally, humans are now exceeding the planet’s regenerative capacity by about 30 per cent.

The report warns that if our demands on the planet continue at the same rate, by the mid-2030s we would need two planets to sustain our current lifestyles. And if everyone on Earth used resources at the same pace as New Zealanders do we would require over three and a half planets to sustain our way of life.

WWF’s report shows the largest human-induced pressure on the planet continues to be carbon emissions from fossil fuel use.

Here in New Zealand, according to the Ministry for the Environment, the principal growth in carbon emissions since 1990 has come from increased carbon dioxide from the energy sector – mainly transport and electricity generation.

Howe says, “We should be deeply concerned at today’s news. But this is our opportunity to change course. Along with alerting us that we are on the path to environmental and humanitarian crisis, the Living Planet Report also provides the road map of how we avert this crisis. Here in New Zealand as around the world, our most urgent priority is reducing our carbon emissions. We need action now from the Government to help people do this.

“WWF’s Earth Hour in March this year demonstrated that people want to live sustainably. In New Zealand’s Earth Hour city of Christchurch, 62 per cent of people joined with millions around the world by switching off their lights for Earth Hour - a symbolic action to show their commitment to fighting climate change. We have the will to change, but we need much more support from Government to do so, and that needs to happen now.

“The Government needs to invest in incentives, tools and policies to help Kiwi households reduce their carbon footprint. We need a transport infrastructure that supports a transition towards a lower carbon economy, and we need a move toward renewable energy sources. An emissions trading scheme is part of the solution, but that alone is not the answer. To play our part in the global climate change challenge, the Government needs to commit to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent from 2005 levels, by 2050.

“Do this, and we could be looking at a very different Living Planet Report in the future, where New Zealand becomes a world leader in conservation instead of consumption.”

WWF’s Living Planet report was produced with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the Global Footprint Network (GFN). For the current report, 2005 data was used to measure the state of the world’s biodiversity and human consumption.


The 2008 Living Planet Report can be downloaded from www.panda.org/lpr/08

The report and additional multimedia materials including broadcast quality video can be found at wwf.extranet.largeblue.net, using the password mA1aGb73

The global ecological footprint is worsening at an increasing rate. The 2006 WWF Living Planet Report revealed an excess ecological footprint of 25 per cent in 2003 (2008 LPR - 30 per cent on global data for 2005), with a projection that the two planet requirement would be reached around 2050 (2008 LPR – 2030s).

The top ten nations with largest ecological footprint per capita are:

1. United Arab Emirates

2. United States of America

3. Kuwait

4. Denmark

5. Australia

6. New Zealand

7. Canada

8. Norway

9. Estonia

10. Ireland

NOTE: To calculate the ‘number of living planets’ that would be required if everyone on the world had a per capita footprint the same as the inhabitants of a given country, divide that country’s average per capita footprint by the world average per capita biocapacity availability (2.1 gha).

New Zealand: 7.7/2.1 = 3.66

Additional information sources:

Suggestions for reducing energy use can be found on Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority's Energywise Action Sheets (www.energywise.orgnz/action-sheets/index.htm), including facts on New Zealand car usage (http://www.energywise.org.nz/library/energywise-factsheet-6.pdf)

Information on New Zealand’s carbon emissions comes from Ministry for the Environment (www.4million.org)


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