The global effort for sustainability will be won, or lost, in the world’s cities, where urban design may influence more than 70 percent of people’s Ecological Footprint and 80 percent of the world’s population is expected to live by 2050. High-Footprint cities can reduce this demand on nature greatly with existing technology. Many of these savings also cut costs and make cities more livable. Since urban infrastructure is long lasting and influences resource needs for decades to come, infrastructure decisions make or break a city’s future. Which ones are building opportunities for resource-efficient and more competitive lifestyles? Which cities are building future resource traps?
What’s in it for local governments?
Local governments succeed by helping all their residents live fulfilling lives, both today and in the future. The availability of natural capital, nature’s ability to renew and provide resources and services, is not the only ingredient in this vision. However, without natural capital – healthy food, energy for mobility and heat, fiber for paper, clothing and shelter, fresh air and clean water – such a vision is impossible. Thus, providing current and future human well-being depends on protecting natural capital from systematic overuse; otherwise, nature will no longer be able to secure society with these basic services.
Ecological Footprint accounts allow governments to track a city or region’s demand on natural capital, and to compare this demand with the amount of natural capital actually available. The accounts also give governments the ability to answer more specific questions about the distribution of these demands within their economy. In other words, Ecological Footprint Accounting gives policy-makers information about their region’s resource metabolism.
To learn more about cities that have calculated their Ecological Footprint, read our case story on Calgary, Canada.