By Will Nichols, Source Business Green
Landmark report calls for immediate action after revealing soaring levels of consumption and collapsing biodiversity
Humanity is currently using 50 per cent more resources than the Earth can provide and by 2030 the combined capacity of two planets will not be sufficient to support global demand unless a step change in consumption patterns can be delivered.
That is the chilling conclusion of the latest Living Planet report from campaign group WWF, a health check on over 2,600 species worldwide, which shows a 30 per cent decline in biodiversity in the last 40 years and echoes the warnings of the last edition in October 2010.
The report argues that the deterioration in services provided by ecosystems and scarcity of resources not only threatens food and water supplies, but also the way businesses and industry operate, including the planet’s ability to deal with carbon emissions.
WWF says it is currently taking one and a half years for the Earth to absorb the CO2 produced each year, leading to rising concentrations of greenhouse gases, while natural capital is being consumed far faster than it can be replenished.
The report also again stresses that consumption levels vary enormously from country-to-country, highlighting that the per capita ecological footprint of a US citizen is six times that of an Indonesian national. As such, if everyone lived as they do in the US, a total of four Earths would be needed to meet the demands placed on nature.
Mark Driscoll, head of food at WWF-UK, said unsustainable consumption patterns were further amplified by high levels of waste resources.
Speaking to reporters, he said as much as 30 per cent of food grown around the world is wasted, while in the UK alone we throw out seven million tonnes of edible food each year. With the global population expected to reach over nine billion by the middle of the century, this type of unsustainable lifestyle cannot continue WWF argues.
Ahead of the Rio+20 conference next month, the NGO is calling for 20 per cent of land, freshwater and marine areas to be protected, to ensure natural capital is better preserved.
The group is arguing that such a move could be justified by the development of a new system for measuring the economic value of natural capital.
It is also calling for a raft of new environmental targets, including goals to minimise food waste, curb consumption, and decrease energy demand by 15 per cent against 2005 levels by 2050.
David Nussbaum, chief executive at WWF-UK, said the world could still develop sustainable economic models, but businesses and governments had to take urgent action.
“It’s not too late to reverse the trend,” he said. “But it will require action comparable to addressing the systemic financial problems from a few years ago. We have got to get more serious. We want government and businesses to step up and work out what action they can take individually and collectively.”
David Tickner, head of freshwater at WWF-UK, added that while some companies were making strides to reduce their environmental impacts, many others had a long way to go to deliver sustainable business models.
“Companies are part of the problem, but they need to be part of the solution as well,” he said. “What we’re seeing now is companies looking at water very differently [and] really seeing water as an increasing strategic risk.
“An increasing number of companies around the world… [are] beginning to say a bit of water efficiency in factories and CSR is not enough. [They] have got to have a risk mitigation strategy [and] acknowledge that a lot of the risk factors are shared with other companies. More advanced companies are working together. That’s a profound change in thinking.”