Asia shows the way in protecting Earth's natural systems as global biodiversity declines
Globally, populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles have declined 52 per cent in the 40-year period measured by the report. The decline of biodiversity in the wider Asia-Pacific region ranks only behind Latin America in the same period.
The Living Planet Report 2014 also shows Ecological Footprint – a measure of humanity's demands on nature – continuing its upward climb. Taken together, biodiversity loss and unsustainable footprint threaten natural systems and human well-being, but can also point us toward actions to reverse current trends.
“Biodiversity is a crucial part of the systems that sustain life on Earth – and the barometer of what we are doing to this planet, our only home. We urgently need bold global action in all sectors of society to build a more sustainable future,” said WWF International Director General Marco Lambertini.
The biggest recorded global threats to biodiversity are habitat loss and degradation, fishing and hunting, and climate change. For the thousands of species tracked by the report, tropical regions show a 56 per cent loss across populations compared to 36 per cent in temperate zones.
As biodiversity declines, increases in population and per capita consumption in Asia are driving an increase in the region's Ecological Footprint. Globally, humanity's demand on the planet is more than 50 per cent larger than what nature can renew, meaning it would take 1.5 Earths to produce the resources necessary to support our current Ecological Footprint. The ecological footprint of average Vietnamese resident seems not very high compared to other developed countries (If everyone on the planet lived the average lifestyle of a resident of Viet Nam, humanity would need 0.9 Earths to sustain our demand on nature). However, In Vietnam, the ecological footprint of average resident has increased sharply from 1,0 gha in 2000 to 1,4 gha in 2012 and 1,62 gha in 2014 and this trend will continue to increase if no proper and immediate actions are made. (Gha – the Global hecta is a measurement unit for quantifying both the Ecological Footprint of people or activities as well as the biocapacity of the earth or its regions.)
The Living Planet Report 2014 is released as the majority of human population lives in cities. Urban areas worldwide are responsible for more than 70 per cent of the planet's energy-related carbon emissions, but they also have the potential to become centres of renewable energy production and energy efficiency, according to the report.
Delinking the relationship between footprint and development is a key priority indicated in the Living Planet Report 2014. Research presented in the report shows that it is possible to increase living standards while restraining resource use.
The Living Planet Report 2014 is the tenth edition of WWF's biennial flagship publication. The report tracks over 10,000 vertebrate species populations from 1970 to 2010 through the Living Planet Index – a database maintained by the Zoological Society of London. The report's measure of humanity's Ecological Footprint is provided by the Global Footprint Network.
This year's Living Planet Index features updated methodology that more accurately tracks global biodiversity and provides a clearer picture of the health of our natural environment. With the findings revealing that the state of the world's species is worsening, the report serves as a platform for dialogue, decision-making and action for governments, businesses and civil society at a critical time for the planet.
The report includes WWF's “One Planet Perspective” with strategies to preserve, produce and consume more wisely. It also includes examples of how communities throughout Asia are already making better choices to reduce Ecological Footprint and reverse biodiversity loss.
“Nature is both a lifeline for survival and a springboard to prosperity. Importantly, we are all in this together. We all need food, fresh water and clean air – wherever in the world we live. At a time when so many people still live in poverty, it is essential to work together to create solutions that work for everyone,” said Lambertini.
In Shanghai, China, the report shows how government incentives are supporting rooftop solar power installations for households and businesses. Shanghai is also taking measures to promote urban farming. Already, more than 55 percent of the city's vegetables are produced locally, helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions, providing employment and alleviating pressure on natural ecosystems.
With the burning of fossil fuels identified as the dominant contributor to global Ecological Footprint, close to one million people in Seoul, South Korea are participating in the city's “No Driving Day” by leaving their cars home one day each week. The programme is helping cut greenhouse gas emissions, improving air quality and reducing traffic congestion.
Sendai, Japan is paving the way in the development of green purchasing regulations by making more than 90 per cent of its purchases from a recommended list of green products. The city has also helped set up a green procurement network involving thousands of public, private and voluntary sector organizations.
Finding innovative solutions to problems facing the natural environment is not easy, but Asian cities are already proving that it can be done. WWF's “One Planet Perspective” shows how Asia and every corner of the globe can maintain a footprint that doesn't outpace Earth's ability to renew. By following WWF’s programme for one planet living, society can begin reversing the trends indicated in the Living Planet Report 2014.