Ecological Footprints Taking the first step - WWF UK
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Ecological Footprints Taking the first step - WWF UK

ContentsINTRODUCTION 04What is sustainable development? 04The global perspective: living beyond our means 05The response to the sustainable development challenge 06WHAT IS THE ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT? 07What the footprint can do… 09And cannot do… 09How footprinting can support the work of local government 09FOOTPRINT METHODOLOGIES 10The ‘top down’ approach 10The ‘bottom up’ approach 10THE STEPS ON THE FOOTPRINTING LADDER 11Gaining support 11Making the links with corporate, community and departmental strategies 12Using footprint as a monitoring tool 12Undertaking the footprint analysis 12Using the data: devising an action programme or strategy 12LINKS BETWEEN FOOTPRINT AND THE WIDER LOCAL AUTHORITY AGENDA 13The devolved administrations and regional government 13Ecological footprint… 14…and community planning 14…and procurement/Best Value 14…and Strategic Environmental Assessment 14…and climate change strategies 15…and sustainable development/Local Agenda 21 strategies 15…and indicators 16…as a strategic management tool 16…as an educational and awareness raising tool 17CASE STUDIES 18Case Study 1 - York 18Case Study 2 - Scotland’s Global Footprint 19Case Study 3 - Cardiff’s Ecological Footprint 20CONCLUSIONS 22REFERENCES 23USEFUL WEB ADDRESSES 25APPENDIX 26Appendix: Characteristics of indicators, and the performance of the ecological footprint 26

Introduction“The problem with land is that they stopped making it sometime ago.” Mark TwainSustainable development has come a long waysince the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, and althoughmany positive initiatives have come to fruition,we are still increasing our collective burden uponthe planet. There are now six billion people butthere is still only one earth.The scale of the sustainable developmentchallenge requires action at the local, nationaland international level. Within the UK, manyindividuals and communities are playing theirpart in helping move society along moresustainable lines.Local authorities have a key role to play inreducing our over-consumption of the world’sresources. The ability of local authorities toaddress the sustainability both of their organisationand of the area they serve has been strengthenedin recent years. A range of new powers andresponsibilities, such as Community Planning,can assist in integrating sustainability into localservices.One of the most important tools that localauthorities have used to help address sustainabledevelopment is the ecological footprint. This isa means of quantifying the environmental impactof a region or community, and identifying howover-consumption can be reduced towards asustainable level. By measuring consumptionrather than pollution, footprint analysis bringssustainable development home to the individualand collective decisions we take.This report explains the concept of ecologicalfootprint and how it can be used as an effectivetool by local authorities. It explains howfootprinting can be integrated into CommunityPlans/Strategies and other mechanisms suchas Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA).The report also provides case studies of localauthorities who have undertaken effective footprintwork, and highlights the benefits that haveaccrued from this.WHAT IS SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT?Before we explore the concept of the ecologicalfootprint, it is important that we define what wemean by sustainable development. The mostcommonly used definition of sustainabledevelopment, and the one used by the UKGovernment, Scottish Parliament and WelshAssembly Government, is that set out in theBrundtland Report of 1987:“Development that meets the needs of thepresent without compromising the ability offuture generations to meet their own needs.”Gro Harlem Brundtland, 1987At its core is the concept that the social andeconomic needs of people living across theplanet have to be addressed, but that we mustachieve this without over-exploiting the naturalenvironment – including resources, habitats andspecies – upon which we depend. If we exceedthe ‘carrying capacity’ of the earth’s ecosystemsand the ‘natural capital’ they provide us with,then we are threatening the ability of ourselvesand future generations to survive, let alonemaintain a decent quality of life. This definitionhas led to many interpretations of sustainabledevelopment.04

Human demands on natural resources (natural capital) have increasedby 70 per cent since 1970, while the state of the world’s naturalecosystems has declined by 40 per cent in the same period.Index (1970=1.0)Fig. 1: Living planet index, 1970–20001. 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000The ‘RussianDolls’ model ofsustainabilityThe ‘Russian Dolls’ model of sustainability 1 showsthe economy as a subset of society, and societyas a subset of the environment. It is a modelwith which many people would agree. However,the crucial challenge is how we translate thisbroad vision into a coherent and integrated setof strategies, plans and actions at the national,regional and local level, and in ensuring that ourprogress towards (or away from) sustainabledevelopment is monitored. Measuring our‘ecological bottom line’ is the first link in the chainof defining and measuring sustainabledevelopment.THE GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE: LIVINGBEYOND OUR MEANSHuman demands on natural resources (naturalcapital) have increased by 70 per cent since1970, while the state of the world’s naturalecosystems has declined by 40 per cent in thesame period. Humanity’s footprint is now over20 per cent larger than what the planet canregenerate: indeed, it now takes more than oneyear and two months for the earth to regenerate“We no longer live within the sustainable limits ofthe planet. Ecosystems are suffering, the globalclimate is changing, and the further we continuedown this path of unsustainable production andexploitation, the more difficult it will become toprotect and restore the biodiversity that remains.”WWF International, Living Planet Report, 2004Number of planetsFig. 2: Humanity’s ecological footprint, 1961–20011. 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000what we use in a single year. We maintain thisovershoot by liquidating the planet’s ecologicalresources. 2 In other words, we are already livingbeyond our means with likely long-term andserious consequences for humanity.Figure 1 shows the decline in biodiversity overthe last 30 years. Figure 2 shows our increasingglobal ecological footprint. If we are serious aboutreversing negative ecological trends, then weneed to engage with the key drivers for thosetrends: the profligate consumption of resources,and the way society deals with ‘waste’.Ensuring that our natural capital is not destroyeddemands that we utilise only the ‘interest’ onthat capital. For example, we can manage forestecosystems sustainably by harvesting only asmall amount from the crop each year. Forestryis an example of what we may term ‘renewable’natural capital, in that the stocks are not finite,and, given correct management procedures, canbe sustained in perpetuity.Living PlanetReport, WWFInternational1 Proposed by Levett (1998) cited in Sharing Nature’s Interest, 2000.2 Global Footprint Network website, www.footprintnetwork.org05

However, certain forms of natural capital are whatwe term as ‘critical’: the stocks are finite. Suchstocks include coal, gas, oil and aggregates.These stocks are technically renewable, buthuman consumption is at a rate that is far greaterthan their slow creation in nature.Another key element to our unsustainability isthat resource use is not shared equally betweennations or individuals. The developed nationsconsume far more global resources per personand also rely on the exploitation of ecosystemsin other continents to sustain current lifestyles.In contrast, there is a failure to meet even basicneeds for many people living in developingcountries. The fundamental challenge facinghuman society over this century is therefore toenable everyone on the planet to live well withinthe planet’s environmental limits.THE RESPONSE TO THE SUSTAINABLEDEVELOPMENT CHALLENGEGlobal sustainable development and sustainableconsumption have been recognised asfundamental goals by the United Nations.At the 2002 World Summit on SustainableDevelopment (WSSD) in Johannesburg,governments built on earlier commitments to acton sustainable production and consumption.Clear targets were set through the MillenniumDevelopment Goals (MDGs) which represent acommitment to environmental sustainability andto addressing some of the root causes ofenvironmental degradation and poverty. Indicatorsto monitor progress on the MDGs up to 2015were also developed. In addition, world leadersadopted a plan significantly to reduce the lossof biodiversity by 2010.“Each generation is entitled to the intereston the natural capital, but the principal shouldbe handed on unimpaired.”Canadian Conservation Commission, 1915Global action is also being undertaken throughother mechanisms, such as the Kyoto Protocolon cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.Welcome though Kyoto is, it does not come closeto the 60-80 per cent cut in global GHGs that willbe required to avoid dangerous levels of climatechange: further negotiations are now underway.The European Union has recognised the need toact on climate change and, in their currentSustainable Development Strategy, to change ourproduction and consumption patterns.THE UK RESPONSEThe UK government’s shared framework forsustainable development, One future – differentpaths, includes a set of guiding principles.The first, “living within environmental limits”,firmly recognises that, for a policy to besustainable, it must respect the fact that we haveonly one planet. Sustainable production andconsumption is identified as a priority area withinthe shared framework.In the UK Sustainable Development Strategy,Securing the Future, the section “One PlanetEconomy” recognises that the globalenvironmental impacts of our consumption andproduction patterns are severe. It also recognisesthat ecological footprinting represents a usefulmeans of visualising the challenge facing us. Thestrategy notes that “developed country patternsof consumption and production could not bereplicated world-wide” and cites the Living PlanetReport estimate that if everyone lived like we do,we would require three planets to support us. 3The concept of footprinting also links in well withthe Sustainable Communities agenda for Englandset out by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister(ODPM). It also connects with the active workbeing taken forward on sustainable developmentand environmental justice by the ScottishParliament and Welsh Assembly Government:indeed, the Welsh Assembly Government hasadopted the ecological footprint as an indicatorof progress.063 Securing the Future, Chapter 4, page 43.

What is the ecological footprint?“Uniquely, we have adopted the ecological footprint as one of theindicators of resource use within Wales.”Rhodri Morgan, First Minister, Welsh Assembly Government speaking at the‘Wales in the World’ Conference, 17 April 2002The most rigorous and useful way of measuringand interpreting our ‘ecological bottom line’ isthrough ecological footprint analysis. Theecological footprint is a measure of the mark thatwe leave behind upon the natural environmentthat sustains us.Governments, regional assemblies and localauthorities are now engaging with the ecologicalfootprint to help measure progress towardssustainable development and to inform policy.Using the footprint helps them integratesustainability into policy-making in a way thathas never before been possible.Ecological footprint analysis measures the impactof human activity upon nature. The footprintexpresses the land area that is required to feedus, provide resources, produce energy, assimilatewaste, and to re-absorb the greenhouse gasesproduced by our use of fossil fuels.This approach uses land as its ‘currency’, andprovides a notional figure – the global hectare 4– for the land area required to support anindividual, a community or a nation’s populationat its present standard of living. If all thebiologically productive land and sea on theplanet is divided by the number of peopleinhabiting it, our available footprint is 1.8 globalhectares (gha) per person. 5 If we choose todesignate some of that productive land towildlife, than our available footprint goes down.Clearly, if the average footprint of every citizenof the planet is greater than 1.8 gha, then weare over-exploiting the earth’s resources and thusjeopardising the ability of future generations toBioproductive landA fair‘earth share’Bioproductive seaEnergy landBuilt landBiodiversity land1.8 gha/personIllustration adapted from an original under the © of Best Foot Forward4 A global hectare is 1 hectare of biologically productive space. It could be anywhere on the planet, and assumes average levels of productivity.5 Living Planet Report 2004, WWF International.07

In 2001, our global footprintaveraged 2.2 gha per person,meaning that we are alreadyexceeding global carryingcapacity by 21 per cent.lead a decent quality of life. In 2001, our globalfootprint averaged 2.2 gha per person, meaningthat we are already exceeding global carryingcapacity by 21 per cent.Developed nations are living in the mostunsustainable manner, with some nations usingup to nearly 10 gha per person. The UK has atotal ecological footprint of 321,621,000 gha,equivalent to 5.4 gha per person.This means that the UK’s population is within thetop 15 per cent of the global population in termsof our environmental impact. The biggest perperson footprints can be found in the UnitedArab Emirates (9.9 gha), followed by the USA(9.5 gha).Our over-consumption can also be observed atthe scale of a local authority area. The footprintof Liverpool is 5.07 gha per person, while thefootprint of the Isle of Wight is 5.75 gha perperson. The footprint of London – at 5.11 ghaper person – is 125 times its geographical area;the size of the UK itself! If all the world’s populationhad consumption patterns like us in the UK, wewould need three planets to sustain ourselves.Of the world’s population, four-fifths has anecological footprint smaller than 4 gha, equivalentin total to 38.3 per cent of the global footprint.The other fifth of the global population occupy61.7 per cent of humanity's footprint, which initself is already at least 20 per cent larger thanthe available capacity of the biosphere.CALCULATING THE FOOTPRINTThe Welsh Assembly Government has a duty to promote sustainable developmentand has adopted the ecological footprint as an indicator of progress towardsthis aim.The project ‘Reducing Wales’ Footprint’ established an ecological footprint forWales and analysed material flows through the Welsh economy. Data on theimpact of different activities was produced (see Diagram) and the wealth ofinformation set out in the report of the project enables detailed analysis ofwhere action to reduce the footprint is most urgently required. Based on thefootprint data the impact of different policies and scenarios on the Welshfootprint was assessed.Ecological footprint (gha/cap)6543210The total ecological footprint of the UK and WalesUKHOW IS AN ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT CAUSED?The way we produce, manage and consume all types of resources impactson our footprint. The North-East England Ecological Footprint project hascalculated the footprint for Sunderland, which is 4.67 gha per person. This islow for the UK, but still almost three times the sustainable global average. Fromthe diagram you can see that the greatest single proportion of the footprint(around two-thirds) is for energy. This represents not just the energy we consumedirectly in our homes and cars, but all the energy required to produce the goodsand services we enjoy.Forest0.28 gha/capPasture0.27 gha/capBuilt land0.19 gha/capWalesReducing Wales’ Ecological Footprint, WWF CymruBioproductive seagha/cap = global0.36 gha/caphectares per personAviation0.04 gha/capEnergy land2.97 gha/capFood and drinkEnergyTravelHousingConsumablesServicesHoliday activitiesGovernmentCapital investmentCrop land0.56 gha/capBioproductiveland 1.1 gha/capFootprint for Sunderland4.67 gha/capFair Earth Share1.8 gha/cap08

WHAT THE FOOTPRINTCAN DO…Ecological footprinting:• tells us about our impacts upon thenatural world that sustains us;• provides us with a ‘time-bound’snapshot of our demand upon nature;• allows us to compare footprints aroundthe world;• tells us about our available globalbiocapacity (productive land andsea area);• tells us whether we are meeting theminimum requirements forsustainability.AND WHAT THE FOOTPRINTCANNOT DO…Ecological footprinting:• cannot tell us what to do!• tells us nothing about our quality oflife – although it can indicate what ourconditions may be like in the future ifwe continue on our ‘business as usual’trajectory;• does not account for pollutants;• does not tell us whether land ismanaged in a sustainable way.HOW FOOTPRINTING CAN SUPPORT THE WORK OF LOCAL GOVERNMENTThe report, Step Change – an analysis of the policy and education applications of the ecologicalfootprint 6 highlights six main purposes for undertaking footprinting projects, namely to:1 provide baseline data to inform policies and projects;2 analyse scenarios to determine targets and predict footprint reductions;3 use as a means to integrate commitment to sustainable development within the Community Plan;4 assist in sustainable development and environmental strategy formation;5 adopt the ecological footprint as a key performance indicator;6 provide powerful information for public awareness and education.In the next section we consider the practical means by which we can develop a local authority areaecological footprint.6 Step Change, WWF Scotland, 2004.09

Footprint methodologiesAny local authority footprinting project has to be based on assembling the required data inan accurate and user-friendly way. There are two basic approaches to data collection, eachof which has their own benefits and shortfalls.1 THE ‘TOP DOWN’ APPROACHThe top down approach uses aggregate economic input-output andhousehold expenditure data to derive footprints for large scale areas,such as the UK as a whole. The advantage of this approach is that ituses widely available national statistics and calculates accurate (albeitaveraged) footprints for the areas or activities in question. Thedisadvantage of this approach is that it can overlook particular issuesor variations around the average consumption pattern in a local area.Outline of ecological footprint calculation methodsNational Footprint AccountsInput-Output AnalysisAllocation by COICOPTop-downHousehold expenditure by LA area and ACORN typeSateliteaccounts2 THE ‘BOTTOM UP’ APPROACHThe bottom up approach uses locally specific consumption data inorder to generate a picture of consumption within a smaller area. Thebottom up approach can provide some useful localised information,but one significant drawback is that in many instances data on localconsumption patterns can be difficult to find. Using local data alsodoes not take account of the resource requirements of the economyas a whole or of the indirect flows associated with consumption.The most effective approach to preparing a footprint at a local authorityarea level is to combine both top down national data and bottom uplocal data: this way the strengths of each approach can be combinedand the drawbacks minimised. It is this hybrid approach that has beendeveloped by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) for use in localauthority area footprinting throughout the UK.‘Standardised’ ecological footprint of finaldemand and household consumption activitiesby local authority areaSpecific data on:- direct fuel consumption for domestic energy- passenger kilometres travelled by mode of transport- housing stock and number of newly built houses- municipal and other wasteBottom-upWasteTourismReducingCardiff’sEcologicalFootprint,WWF CymruThe National Footprint Accounts (NFA), developed by the GlobalFootprint Network, provide an ecological footprint for the UK. This datacan be disaggregated down to regional and local authority level andcombined with local data to form the basis of local footprint calculations.The Ecological Budget UK project undertook a detailed resource flowanalysis and ecological footprint of the UK by devolved nation andRegional Development Agency (RDA) area. This lead to the productionof footprint information for every local authority area in the UK, greatlysimplifying the process of producing a local footprint.There is a great deal of literature on the subject of ecological footprintmethodologies. Helpful websites and Global Footprint Network is committed to fostering a worldwhere all people have the opportunity to live satisfying liveswithin the means of the earth’s ecological capacity. It is dedicatedto advancing the scientific rigour and practical application ofthe ecological footprint, a tool that quantifies human demandon nature, and nature’s capacity to meet these demands.In 2006, the Global Footprint Network will launch the firstinternational standards for the ecological footprint, along witha certification process. This will ensure that all footprint studiesare comparable, and comply with the most rigorous methodologyand data sets agreed by the international community.10

A crucial lesson from the experience of local authorities and LSPsin undertaking ecological footprint work is that it will only be effectivein influencing policy and practice if it has the support of ElectedMembers, senior managers and key staff.The steps on the footprint ladderUndertaking a footprinting exercise requires the completion of a series of clear and distinctstages or ‘steps’, each of which will help ensure that the footprinting work is properlyintegrated with the wider work of the council or Community Planning framework.A NOTE ABOUT THE DEVOLVED ADMINISTRATIONSSince the creation of the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly Government and Northern Ireland Assembly, many areasof policy, including Local Government, have been the responsibility of these bodies for their respective nations/regions. Thishas led to the use of different terms for similar structures such as Local Strategic Partnerships (LSPs) in England which arereferred to as Community Planning Partnerships (CPPs) in Scotland and Community Strategy Partnerships (CSPs) in Wales.In order to make the text more readable the English terms are used throughout this report except when referring to specificexamples in the other nations. For each of these terms the equivalents in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are:EnglandScotlandWalesN. IrelandLocal StrategicPartnershipsCommunity PlanningPartnershipsCommunity StrategyPartnershipsn/aCommunity StrategyCommunity PlanCommunity Strategyn/aLocal Area AgreementsPolicy AgreementsLocal Outcome Agreementsn/aGAINING SUPPORTA crucial lesson from the experience of localauthorities and LSPs in undertaking ecologicalfootprint work (and indeed in promotingsustainable development in general) is that itwill only be effective in influencing policy andpractice if it has the support of Elected Members,senior managers and key staff.As a general rule, time spent in building supportbefore the footprinting project is underwaycan be invaluable in delivering successfuloutcomes. Cardiff County Council recognisedthe importance of ensuring high level supportfor the ecological footprint, and this has paiddividends as the process has been takenforward (see case study on pages 20 to 21).Steps to consider include:• ensuring that the footprinting project isdiscussed and agreed by the council cabinetor corporate management team (dependingon the decision-making process) or by theboard of the LSP if the project is being takenforward through Community Planning;• persuading the Chief Executive to make apersonal commitment to the project and topass this on to all relevant departmental heads;• identifying any cross-departmental structuresthat could help support the footprinting process(for example, an officers’ sustainabledevelopment group) and meet with all keypeople involved to explain the project and thebenefits for their work;• identifying officers who are likely to hold thedata that will be required to prepare the footprintreport and meet with them to explain theprocess and outcomes.The process of persuading senior managementand Elected Members of the importance offootprinting is made easier by the commitmentsto sustainable development and sustainableprocurement underpinning many of the11

With its ability to create simple mental images from complexstatistics, the footprint can also be used to help decision-makersto think about the big picture.frameworks within which local governmentoperates. These are discussed in the next chapter.MAKING THE LINKS WITH CORPORATE,COMMUNITY AND DEPARTMENTALSTRATEGIESAnother key element of ‘mainstreaming’ thefootprinting work is to ensure that it is integratedwith key strategies such as the Corporate/Strategic Plan and Community Strategy, and thatlinks are also made with other plans and strategiessuch as those on transport, climate change,sustainable development, housing andprocurement. More information on the links thatcan be made with various strategies is set outin the following section.USING FOOTPRINT AS A MONITORING TOOLThe footprint is useful as a one-off exercise butis perhaps more effective if viewed as an ongoinginitiative, with the ecological footprint reviewedevery few years. This allows trends to bemeasured over time (i.e. towards – or away from– sustainability) and comparisons made withother countries, regions, organisations andindividuals. A commitment to a regular review ofthe footprint can help ensure it is embedded incouncil and Community Strategies as a tool tomonitor progress, and that it is also used as partof the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)of all relevant plans and strategies. (See the Yorkcase study on page 18, for example.) York hasset a target of cutting the city’s footprint withinits Community Strategy.UNDERTAKING FOOTPRINT ANALYSISThe core element of the process is to generatethe data and footprint analysis. This informationis already freely available to all English, Scottishand Welsh local authorities as developed by theStockholm Environment Institute (visit Results for Northern Irelandlocal authority areas are expected later in 2006.The next step is to apply the analysis to policy.Already trialled with a number of footprintingprojects, the REAP software (Resource andEnergy Analysis Program) enables acomprehensive accounting of how energy andresources are consumed, converted andproduced in a given area/economy. It allows arange of alternative future scenarios regardingpopulation, economic development, technologyetc., to be considered, making it useful as apolicy analysis tool. 7USING THE DATA: DEVISING AN ACTIONPROGRAMME OR STRATEGYAs local authorities across the UK have shown,data provided by the ecological footprint is usefulin a number of ways.• At the most fundamental level it provides aclear picture of the extent to which a councilor a local authority area is unsustainable. Therange of data produced by the footprintingproject can allow complex analysis of localenvironmental impacts with regard to individualissues such as energy use or food; in termsof how different communities or types of lifestyleimpact on the overall footprint; or in terms ofthe resource use of different sectors of thelocal community.• This data can inform a strategic response. Itcan be used to develop an Action Plan aimedat addressing impacts across the council orthe community.• It can be used as a basic tool to inform arevision of individual strategies with actionsset out in the strategy analysed against theirlikely impact on the overall footprint. The datasets can be used to model different scenariosand examine their impact on the footprint, e.g.waste management, local food production,sustainable transport measures, renewableenergy production, etc. Strategies that reducethe footprint can then be prioritised.• The footprint can also be integrated with theCommunity Strategy and used to analyse orreview actions or to monitor change.• Finally, it is a valuable and effective visualisingtool for educators, and can be used withchildren, young people and adults. With itsability to create simple mental images fromcomplex statistics, it can also be used to helpdecision-makers to think about the ‘big picture’.127 For more information on REAP see

Links between footprint and thewider local authority agendaFootprinting has been shown to be an effective tool that can be integrated with a wide rangeof council and community plans and strategies. In particular, footprinting can be linked tothe new powers of community leadership given to local authorities in recent years, helpingunderpin the need for all such plans to be based on sustainable development. The ecologicalfootprint can also be used to assess the impact of individual policy decisions made by alocal authority or Local Strategic Partnership.THE DEVOLVED ADMINISTRATIONS ANDREGIONAL GOVERNMENTA significant amount of work on footprinting hasbeen undertaken in Scotland, Wales, NorthernIreland and in the English Regions. Local authoritiesundertaking ecological footprint projects shouldbe aware of the work underway in theirnation/region and should consider how theirfootprint project can be linked with these initiatives.In Scotland, a key objective of Scotland’sSustainable Development Strategy is to reducethe size of Scotland’s ecological footprint. TheScottish Executive is also committed toconducting an independent ecological footprintanalysis for Scotland in 2008, and to supportingthe roll out of the footprint tool to local authoritiesand schools through Scotland’s Global FootprintProject. This project is working with a numberof councils to integrate the footprint into policyand to use it as an educational tool. The firstfootprint analysis of Scotland, Scotland’sFootprint, was completed in 2004.Wales has in many ways led the way onfootprinting. A national footprint has beendeveloped and is being used by the WelshAssembly Government to monitor progresson sustainable development. Cardiff andGwynedd Councils have used the analysis toinform policies on transport, waste, food andother areas through the Reducing WalesEcological Footprint project.A footprint report for Northern Ireland, NorthernLimits, has been prepared. A revised version ofthis report is now in preparation as is a new pieceof work to assess the footprint of the Irish republic.In England projects are underway in mostregions:• In 2002, a footprint for London was published,while in April 2004, the Mayor’s SustainableDevelopment Commission adopted ecologicalfootprint as a headline indicator. The concepthas also been integrated with the London Plan(or spatial strategy), which acknowledges theimpact of London’s ecological footprint,especially in relation to energy and waste.• In 2006, as part of theEcological Budget UK’project, ecological footprint results becameavailable for every English Region via thewebsite .• The Ecological Budget UK project also led tothe development of two reports – both availablein April 2006. For the North-East, there is a(local to regional) focus on Sunderland City,while for the West Midlands there is a (regionalto local) focus on the footprint of a sustainablecommunity.13

A commitment to sustainable development underpins all CommunityStrategies and there is therefore significant potential to use thefootprint to evaluate whether the plan is really helping to promotelocal sustainability.There is also great potential to integrate footprintsinto a range of other regional work. For example,the South-East Integrated Regional Framework(IRF) has adopted ecological footprint as aheadline indicator and it is also likely that therewill be a commitment in the Regional SpatialStrategy (RSS) to stabilise the footprint anddevelop a reduction strategy.ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT ANDCOMMUNITY PLANNINGCommunity Strategies are now the centraldocument driving much of the action at a locallevel. They are a statutory requirement and, giventhat they involve not just the local authority butalso other public agencies, local businesses andthe wider community, they offer the potential todevelop integrated responses to local issues. Acommitment to sustainable developmentunderpins all Community Strategies and there istherefore significant potential to use the footprintto evaluate whether the plan is really helping topromote local sustainability.The ecological footprint provides a way of linkingthe local to the global, while also providing aunique ‘visioning tool’ that can help both localpeople, and the authorities themselves, thinkabout the challenges of sustainable developmentand the wider global impact of local actions. InAngus it was possible to link the footprint exerciseto the Community Plan, using it as a tool to helpthose involved in preparing the Plan, particularlycommunity groups, to make the connectionbetween policy commitments and sustainabledevelopment.The footprint project could also be linked to LocalArea Agreements (LAAs). These represent anagreement reached between central and localgovernment that is intended to improveperformance in the delivery of local services.Ecological footprint could be adopted as anindicator of overall progress against the LAA.Finally, the footprint can be integrated into thePublic Service Agreement (PSA), with EssexCouncil being an example of where this hashappened to date.Footprint scenarios for organic food consumption and production, showingpotential reductions. Reducing Wales’ Ecological Footprint, WWF CymruTotal ecological footprint of food production (million gha) 1998 2000 2002 2004 2006 2008 2010 2012 2014 2016 2018 2020 2022yearYearOrganic foodmarket shareIndividual foodfootprint a)% change tobaselineTotal amount oforganic foodconsumedHistoric dataBaseline20011.05%1.29 gha/cap29,900 tScenario a“slowinggrowth”20202.2%1.28 gha/cap-0.51%69,000 t b)a) combined footprint of eating in and eating outECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT ANDPROCUREMENT/BEST VALUEThe Best Value regime governs the purchasing ofall goods and services by local authorities. A keyprinciple of Best Value across Britain is that itshould promote sustainability. Indeed, sustainablepublic procurement is highlighted in the UKSustainable Development Strategy, which alsoincludes a commitment to developing related keyperformance indicators.The ecological footprint links in well withprocurement policies, helping local authorities toassess whether their purchasing decisions arecontributing towards this sustainability goal andStatus QuoWelsh OrganicStrategy targetAmbitious strategyScenario b“sustainedgrowth”20204.6%1.27 gha/cap-1.4%135,400 t b)b) takes into account the predicted growth in Welsh populationScenario c“highgrowth”202016%1.21 gha/cap-5.9%470,500 t b)14

providing quantified data that shows the real effectof procurement decisions. (See, for example, theScotland’s Global Footprint case study on page19, which looks at how three Scottish councilsare linking footprinting with Best Value.)At a wider scale, the Ecological Budget UK projectprovides data that can be used as the basis forsustainable production and consumptionstrategies.ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT AND STRATEGICENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENTSince 2004 it has been a legal requirement thata Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) isundertaken on many local authority and LSPplans and strategies as they are being developedand reviewed.SEA, and the associated process of SustainabilityAppraisal, require the production of a baselineenvironmental assessment to highlight the keyenvironmental challenges facing a community.SEA also requires the development of indicatorsand a monitoring process to assess whether theplan or strategy is having the impacts predictedby the Assessment or Appraisal. The informationgathered to calculate the ecological footprint ofan area can often be useful in providing baselinedata for an SEA. The footprint is also useful asan indicator, particularly as – unlike other indicators– it can help assess the global environmentalimpacts of local policies. Finally, SEA requiresthat consideration be given to the impact ofalternative scenarios/plans on the environment.Again, the footprinting exercise can assist withscenario modelling (See scenarios on organicfood and sustainable linning on page 14).The integration of the footprint and SEA is oneof the objectives of the North-East Scotlandfootprinting project (see the case study on page19). A considerable amount of work on the linksbetween the two has also been undertaken aspart of the Ecological Budget UK project.ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT AND CLIMATECHANGE STRATEGIESGrowing concern about climate change meansthat many councils across the UK are currentlydeveloping climate change strategies. As thefootprint of a local authority includes data oncarbon emissions per person, the ecologicalfootprint can be used to provide the baselinedata upon which to assess the impact ofgreenhouse gas mitigation policies on the overallemissions of a council or a local community.The footprint can also be used both to assessthe relative impacts of different sectors of theeconomy on the overall emissions of an area,and to provide data on the embodied energyand greenhouse gas emissions provided by,for example, food production, consumption anddisposal. Carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) accounts for alllocal authority areas in England, Scotland andWales are available as part of the EcologicalBudget UK project. Results for Northern Irelandlocal authority areas are expected later in 2006.Ecological Footprint per capitaSustainable living4. UK New 2002 EcoHomes BedZED KeenBedZEDEnergyTransportBuildinga houseWaterFood Consumables Services HolidaysFootprint of different types of homes from current stock to zero energydevelopments. Stockholm Environment Institute.15

Within Wales, the most effective strategy would be to introducea waste minimisation and recycling scheme – especially forhouseholds. The embodied energy that is lost by throwing materialsinto landfill means that landfill waste accounts for nearly half ofthe footprint of Wales.ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT ANDSUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT/LOCALAGENDA 21 STRATEGIESEcological footprint is a good way of integratingthe various components of an overarchingsustainable development or Local Agenda 21strategy because it enables a direct comparisonto be made between environmental options.Using the ecological footprint as part of thesustainable development strategy helps makethe link between action on the ground and itslikely wider impacts, thereby supporting a coreprinciple of sustainable development.The Welsh Assembly was the first administrationin the world to use ecological footprinting as anindicator of ‘real progress’. Local authorities suchas Cardiff (see the case study on pages 20 to21), Gwynedd and Liverpool have already madethe links between footprinting and their widersustainability work.The footprint can also be used as a singleindicator, and/or it can be broken down into itsconstituent parts (consumables and waste,energy and housing, travel, service demand,food and drink, and fixed capital government),with each one of these components being usedas an individual indicator.ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT ANDINDICATORSLSPs and local authorities have adopted a broadrange of indicators to assess the effectivenessof their work. While effective indicators are veryuseful in helping to understand the extent ofprogress towards goals, many local authoritiesfind some indicators problematic. This can befor a variety of reasons, including the following:• indicators can be very narrow in their focusand fail to illustrate the bigger picture;• the data required to assess progress againstan indicator can be difficult to assemble andanalyse;• progress against one indicator can sometimeslead to a negative impact on another;• the general public can find indicators difficultto comprehend.The ecological footprint overcomes many of theseproblems as it offers a picture of overall progresstowards sustainability that is easy to understandand explain. Essex County Council and NorthLincolnshire Council are just two examples ofadministrations that have adopted the ecologicalfootprint as one of their sustainable developmentindicators. York and North Lincolnshire Councilshave also included the ecological footprint withintheir Community Strategies.The Audit Commission’s new Quality of Life reporthas noted the value of the ecological footprintas an aggregate indicator that can help providethe big picture on sustainable development.Although it is not part of the quality of life indicatorsset, the Commission recognise that there isincreasing interest in this approach – report also notes that, through the EcologicalBudget UK project, of which WWF is a keypartner, ecological footprint results will be freelyavailable for every local authority in England,Scotland and Wales including footprint data,information and support materials. Results forlocal authorities in Northern Ireland will be availablelater in 2006.ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT ASA STRATEGIC MANAGEMENT TOOLThe footprint enables us to make comparisonsbetween environmental policy options in a waythat no other indicator can. Once the data hasbeen collected we can then generate meaningfulscenarios for strategies that seek to reduce thefootprint.Scenarios are a very effective way of decidingupon future policy and action. For example, withinWales, the most effective strategy would be tointroduce a waste minimisation and recyclingscheme – especially for households. Theembodied energy that is lost by throwing materialsinto landfill means that landfill waste accountsfor nearly half of the footprint of Wales. Not onlycan scenarios be used to help set targets, butthey can also indicate by how much the footprintwould be reduced if these targets were put in16

To help address these significant environmental challenges, a numberof actions were set out in the Strategy. One of these was to“encourage local businesses and organisations to reduce theirimpact on the local and global environment and to assess theirenvironmental performance.”Case study 1YorkIntroduction – The York Footprinting Project was one of the earliest in the UK. It began in2001, when the Energy Saving Trust obtained funding from Norwich Union to undertake afootprint study, which was conducted by the Stockholm Environment Institute. The initialstudy was completed in August 2002 and calculated that the average footprint of eachresident of York was 6.91 gha, well above the UK average. Over the last three years the Cityof York Council has used the data produced to help guide its overall policy framework, mostespecially with regard to Community Planning.LINKAGESIn 2003, the York Local Strategic Partnershipwas established, with the City Council playingan important role. Through the LSP, theCommunity Strategy for York was produced in2004, setting out a 20 year vision for the city.One of the core objectives for the Strategy wasthat York should become a sustainable city.However, based in part on the data generatedthrough the footprinting exercise, it wasrecognised that the city faced a number ofchallenges in achieving this, includingunsustainable consumption patterns, highvolumes of traffic, increasing waste productionand the threat of climate change.To help address these significant environmentalchallenges, a number of actions were set out inthe Strategy. One of these was to “encouragelocal businesses and organisations to reducetheir impact on the local and global environmentand to assess their environmental performance.”This objective is being actively supported by theStockholm Environment Institute (SEI).More crucially, the Community Strategy is beingunderpinned by a target to reduce the ecologicalfootprint of the city to 3.5 gha per person by2033. By using this as a target in the CommunityStrategy, the Council can help ensure that thisis a target that all in the community can contributetowards.Ecological Footprint per capitaYork ecological footprint projections6. 2003 2006 2009 2012 2015 2018 2021 2024Now that this target is established, SEI is workingwith the City Council and Community PlanningPartners to consider how best this ambitioustarget can be achieved.MORE INFORMATIONStockholm Environment Institute.Visit www.regionalsustainability.orgYork target –reduce theecologicalfootprint to 3.5gha/capita by20332027StockholmEnvironmentInstitute18

Case study 2Scotland’s Global FootprintIntroduction – Scotland’s footprinting project was launched in 2004 and will run for threeyears until June 2007. The aim of the project is for three Councils – Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshireand North Lanarkshire – to work with WWF Scotland and other partners to reduce their localand global environmental impact. Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Councils are running ajoint project covering North East Scotland.THE PROJECTThere are four stages to the project:• measuring the footprint of each localauthority area;• using the REAP software tool to inform policy;• developing a Footprint Reduction Plan andprojects to reduce the footprint;• producing educational materials for schoolsto measure the whole school footprint.The work is intended to demonstrate the potentialof integrating footprinting with two areas ofimportant cross-departmental work within localauthorities. Firstly, work is ongoing to connectthe ecological footprint with work on Best Value.Secondly, it is being demonstrated how thefootprint can help inform Strategic EnvironmentalAssessments (SEA).LINKAGESBoth the North East and the North Lanarkshireproject have linked their footprint work with theirCommunity Planning Partnerships (CPPs).THE FUTUREThe preliminary calculation of the footprint ineach area has now been completed and this isfeeding into an evaluation of policy options. Theseresults and the educational materials will be rolledout to all Scottish local authorities in 2006.MORE INFORMATIONwww.scotlandsfootprint.orgThe project also places a strong emphasis onworking with the education sector, and individualschools in the two areas have undertaken theirown footprinting exercises as part of the project.These activities have been supported by aninteractive software tool and materials to helpsupport primary and secondary school childrento calculate their ecological footprint.19

In 2001 (the baseline year), the ecological footprint of Cardiff was5.59 gha per person. In land use terms this equated in total to 82per cent of the land area of Wales. The researchers believe that inthe intervening years up to 2005, Cardiff's footprint will have grownto equal the land area of Wales.Case study 3Cardiff’s Ecological FootprintIntroduction – The Welsh Assembly Government has an established commitment to use theecological footprint as a policy analysis tool. As part of the ‘Reducing Wales’ Ecological Footprint’project, the footprints of Cardiff and Gwynedd were calculated. The Cardiff project was basedon a partnership between the Council, ESRC BRASS Research Centre at Cardiff University,the National Assembly, WWF Cymru, the Welsh Development Agency (WDA), the StockholmEnvironment Institute and the Environment Agency, and funded with a £300,000 Biffaward.THE PROCESSTwo years before beginning the project the Council included acommitment within the Sustainability Strategy to address the globalimpact of the city and to use the ecological footprint as a tool toassess this impact.However, Cardiff County Council (CCC) was concerned that previousfootprinting studies were not being linked to policy decisions and thereforenot leading to real and quantifiable actions. It was felt that a key reasonfor this was that the footprint was not integrated with mainstream policy.Crucial to the success of Cardiff’s work was ensuring that the footprintconnected with the Community Strategy, providing as it does theoverarching vision for the city. The footprint was also integrated with thePerformance Plan and the Corporate Business Plan.Another significant step was to ensure that the cabinet discussedand approved a commitment to the footprint project, with this ensuringhigh level political support.per cent of the land area of Wales. The researchers believe that inthe intervening years up to 2005, Cardiff's footprint will have grownto equal the land area of Wales.The most significant ecological impacts identified were:• food eaten in the home;• commercial infrastructure;• passenger transport;• municipal waste;• domestic energy.The research illustrated the huge impact of individuals and householdersthrough their consumption patterns. By breaking the footprint downinto its component parts, the impacts of different activities can beidentified and possible policy responses considered.Percentage breakdown of Cardiff’s ecological footprint, 2001Once this high level political and strategy commitment was in place,the footprint process was taken forward through the ‘SustainabilityAdvocates’ group. This consisted of senior managers in departmentsacross the authority with the group being established to ensure thatsustainable development was mainstreamed across the Council.Next the researchers worked with the Council on data collection andanalysis, leading to the development of policy scenarios.THE RESULTSIn 2001 (the baseline year), the ecological footprint of Cardiff was5.59 gha per person. In land use terms this equated in total to 822.8% Housing4.6% Services7.3% Government11.4% Consumables13.2% CapitalinvestmentReducing Cardiff’s Ecological Footprint, WWF Cymru1.8% Holiday activities23.7% Food and drink17.6% Energy17.6% Travel20

FOOD FOOTPRINTFood is the biggest part of the ecological footprint and much of thisimpact is down to the production methods and the resources usedin processing the food. Only 1 per cent of food consumed in Cardiffis organic, 32 per cent is imported and 16 per cent ends up goingdirectly into the waste stream. The best way to slow the growth of thefood footprint in Cardiff is to increase consumption of fresh, seasonaland organic foods rather than processed foods. School meals, eventsand public and private sector catering are key areas for action.ENERGY FOOTPRINTThe study showed that there is an increasing growth in the energyfootprint of Cardiff, and that rising disposable income and theproliferation of smaller numbers in households are adding to thisincrease. Only 6.8 per cent of domestic energy in Cardiff is sourcedfrom renewable sources, and each citizen is responsible for 2.48tonnes of CO 2 being released into the atmosphere. In order to reducethe growth of the footprint a radical shift towards renewable energyuse across the city is required. In addition, providing new and existinghousing with energy efficiency measures would have the mostsignificant impact on the footprint.WASTE FOOTPRINTThe study shows that 64 per cent of the domestic waste stream isrecyclable. While Cardiff County Council recycling policies are beginningto tackle this problem, the study shows that radical minimisation ofwaste is required and that activities which minimise the introductionof packaging and food waste into the waste stream will have themost effect. Developing local markets for recyclables would also helpto reduce the footprint.INFRASTRUCTURE FOOTPRINTCardiff's capital city status and role in the city region means thatCardiff’s citizens bear an ecological burden for the rest of Walesbecause of this shared infrastructure. Also clear is the need to startbeginning to account for the lifetime ecological burden of developments,as well as their initial impacts in construction.CONCLUSIONSThe Cardiff footprint study has helped to move footprinting out of theacademic and into the policy arena and will help to inform thesustainable development debate in the city in a number of ways:• it has identified the most significant areas of resource use and theecological ‘big hitters’;• it provides evidence to inform debate and challenge policy toreduce the ecological footprint;• it will be used as an awareness raising tool to engage with partnersand citizens into the future and be re-measured as a CommunityStrategy indicator at regular intervals.MORE INFORMATIONDr Alan Netherwoodemail: copies of the technical report please see the pdf version at:www.walesfootprint.orgTRANSPORT FOOTPRINTAir and car travel are responsible for 95 per cent of the transportecological footprint. Only 10 per cent of passenger km in 2001 wereby public transport, cycling or on foot. The scenarios showed thatthe role of car and air travel in footprint growth over the next 15 yearswill be significant. This would be exacerbated by any further carcentric development across Cardiff and increased numbers of peopletravelling by air. The study supports the Council’s approach to providingaccess to more sustainable transport modes of rail and bus and citycentre living, but shows that a more radical approach is needed. Thisevidence can help in the debate about congestion charging andsimilar demand management policies in the city.The research suggests that the increased demand and economicbenefits of air travel also have a significant ecological cost. Anopportunity is identified for Cardiff to send out a clear message thatthe city is offsetting these impacts through carbon sequestrationprojects (tree planting, etc.) and green tourism initiatives.21

ConclusionsThe bottom line for sustainable development is that we live within thecapacity of supporting ecosystems, both as individuals andcommunities. The ecological footprint helps translate the aspirationfor local and global sustainable development into a tangible frameworkaround which action can be taken.At the local level, footprinting can be used as a strategic managementtool, as an awareness raising and educational tool, as a cross-cuttingthread running through a wide range of strategies and plans, and asa source of baseline information and indicators to underpin SEA andBest Value.Many councils and community planning bodies across the UK havefound that undertaking work on the ecological footprint has broughtsignificant benefits. It is hoped that this guide, and the range of othersupport available from WWF and their partners, will assist other localauthorities to become involved in this important work.22

ReferencesBrundtland Commission (1987) Our Common Future, World Commission on Environment and DevelopmentCanadian Conservation Commission (1915) cited in Building Sustainable Communities: A resource forCitizens and their GovernmentsChambers, N, Simmons, C and Wackernagel, N (2000) Sharing Nature’s Interest: Ecological Footprintsas an Indicator of Sustainability, Earthscan, LondonCollins, A, Flynn, A and Netherwood, A, (2005) Reducing Cardiff’s Ecological Footprint - A ResourceAccounting Tool for Sustainable Consumption Technical Report, WWF Cymru (see, A, and Flynn, A (2005) “A New Perspective on the Environmental Impacts of Planning: A Case Studyof Cardiff’s International Sports Village” in Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning 7 (4): pp277-302Collins, A, Flynn, A, Munday, M and Roberts, A (forthcoming) “Exploring the Environmental Consequencesof Major Sporting Events: The 2003/2004 FA Cup Final” (Submitted to Urban Studies)Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions (2000) “School Travel” – et al (1997) cited in The Footprint of Wales: A Report to the Welsh Assembly Government, WWFCymru, 2002Holmberg, Lundqvist, Robért and Wackernagel (1999) cited in The Footprint of Wales: A Report to theWelsh Assembly Government, WWF Cymru, 2002HM Government (1997) cited in The Footprint of Wales: A Report to the Welsh Assembly Government,WWF Cymru, 2002Krotscheck and Narodoslawsky (1996) cited in The Footprint of Wales: A Report to the Welsh AssemblyGovernment, WWF Cymru, 2002Levett (1998) in Chambers, N, Simmons, C and Wackernagel, N (2000) Sharing Nature’s Interest:Ecological Footprints as an Indicator of Sustainability, Earthscan, LondonLewan, L and Simmons, C (2001) “The Use of Ecological Footprint and Biocapacity Analyses as SustainabilityIndicators for Sub-national Geographical Areas: A Recommended Way Forward”– and Romieu (2000) cited in The Footprint of Wales: A Report to the Welsh Assembly Government,WWF Cymru, 200223

Moffatt, I, Wiedmann, T, Barrett, J (2005) “The impact of Scotland’s economy on the environment: a noteon input-output and Ecological Footprint analysis” in Quarterly Economic Commentary, University ofStrathclyde, 30(3): pp37-44Stockholm Environment Institute at the University of York (2005) Reducing Wales’ Ecological Footprint– Main Report, WWF Cymru (see Weizacker, E, Lovins, A, B and Lovins, L, H (1997) Factor Four: Doubling Wealth, Halving ResourceUse – The New Report to the Club of Rome, London, EarthscanWackernagel, M and Rees, W (1996) Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth,New Society Publishers, British ColumbiaWackernagel et al (1997) cited in The Footprint of Wales: A Report to the Welsh AssemblyGovernment, WWF Cymru, 2002Wackernagel et al (1999) “National natural accounting with the ecological footprint concept”in Ecological Economics, Elsevier Science, Oxford, pp 375-390Wackernagel et al (2000) “Ecological Footprint” in Loh, J (ed), Living Planet Report 2000,WWF International, 2000Wiedmann, T, Minx, J, Barrett, J and Wackernagel, M “Allocating ecological footprints to final consumptioncategories with input-output analysis” in Ecological Economics, available online 12 July 2005WWF Cymru (2002) The Footprint of Wales: A Report to the Welsh Assembly GovernmentWWF International (2004) Living Planet Report 2004WWF Scotland (2004) Step Change: An Analysis of the Policy and Educational Application of theEcological Footprint24

Useful web addressesEcological Budget and Ecological Cymru and Wales’ Ecological Footprintwww.walesfootprint.orgWWF Scotland and Scotland’s Global Footprintwww.scotlandsfootprint.orgStockholm Environment Institutewww.regionalsustainability.orgGlobal Footprint Networkwww.footprintnetwork.orgMass Balance UKwww.massbalance.orgThe Sustainable Development Research Centre (SDRC)www.massbalance.orgBest Foot Forwardwww.bestfootforward.com25

AppendixCharacteristics of indicators, and the performance of theecological footprintMeasures what we want to know, oris an acceptable proxy for itEcological footprint measures human resource consumptionagainst our stocks of natural capital – and answers the mostbasic question for sustainable development: ‘How much naturehave we got, compared with how much we use?’Scientifically validThe ecological footprint concept has been in use since 1992.It is used to compare the ecological footprint of nations (seethe Living Planet Report), and measure the ecological footprintof regions, communities and individuals.Simple and easy to interpretEcological footprint is both a technical concept and a metaphor.Intuitively the human footprint should not exceed the area ableto support it. It also supports an equity perspective by showingthat in order to sustainably accommodate Northern largefootprints, very little space remains for Southern footprints.Shows trends over timeEcological footprint can be used to compare against othercountries, regions, organisations and individuals and againstitself to show trends over time, i.e. has the footprint increasedor decreased since the last measurement?Sensitive to the changes it is meant toindicateEcological footprint is an aggregate of resource consumptionflows and waste assimilation, converted into a land mass areathat represents ecosystem categories. Changes in consumptionpatterns will produce changes in the demands of each ecosystemcategory, and a corresponding change in the overall footprint.26

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