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  • Dec 20, 2014
  • Updated: 3:03pm
NewsHong Kong
ENVIRONMENT

Hong Kong’s ‘ecological deficit’ dangerously high, say conservationists

Conservation groups warn that city's demand for resources is 150 times greater than supply and drastic changes are needed to avoid crisis

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 August, 2013, 9:01am
 

Hong Kong's "ecological deficit" is the ninth largest in the world and the second biggest in Asia, a report by conservation groups WWF and the Global Footprint Network has found.

And they warned that if everyone in the world lived like Hongkongers, almost three Planet Earths would be needed to satisfy global demand for resources.

Cheung Chi-wah, head of the WWF's footprint programme, said the growing biocapacity deficit is particularly dangerous for the city as it needs to import natural resources, often from countries that are also running deficits.

The ecological deficit is the gap between the city's ecological footprint - its demand for resources such as crops, forest products, seafood, and land plus its carbon footprint - and its biocapacity - the supply of biologically productive land and sea area. The report warned that the city's demand is now 150 times greater than supply.

"Hong Kong has to make changes and adapt to the rules of this 'new game', to become less vulnerable to fluctuations in global market prices and supply disruption," said Cheung. "We hope the government, corporations and individuals can take responsibility and adopt a 'consume less, consume wisely' approach."

The city currently has an ecological footprint of 4.7 global hectares (gha) per person compared to 4.0 gha in the last WWF's ecological foot print report published in 2010. Biocapacity per person dropped from 0.04 gha in the last report to 0.03 gha. Today's world average, in comparison, is 2.7 gha and 1.8 gha respectively, the report said.

Global hectares are commonly used to measure the average productivity of all biologically productive land and sea areas.

Hong Kong's insatiable appetite for consumer goods accounted for a staggering one-quarter of the city's total ecological footprint, which this year climbed to 26th place from 45th place three years ago. Household consumption made up 80 per cent of the ecological footprint.

Clothing made up 12 per cent of the household ecological footprint - a category which the report said was particularly crucial for Hong Kong. In a separate online survey conducted by the foundation this month, 80 per cent of respondents did not believe they buy more clothes than needed and the same percentage said they would buy fewer clothes only if they knew the manufacture of clothes negatively affected the environment.

Food comprised an even higher 23 per cent of the household ecological footprint in Hong Kong.

The report warned that if the rest of the world adopted Hong Kong lifestyles, the equivalent of 2.6 earths would be needed to meet global demand for resources by the middle of this century. The last WWF ecological footprint report published in 2010 had estimated 2.2 planets.

"The earth is like a bank … and we are now dipping into its savings of natural resource capital. It will be a crisis for us and for the future of our children," said WWF-Hong Kong's director for conservation, Gavin Edwards.

The earth is like a bank … and we are now dipping into its savings of natural resource capital. It will be a crisis for us and for the future of our children
WWF-Hong Kong's director for conservation, Gavin Edwards

The biannual report studied 150 countries and coincided with Earth Overshoot Day - the day when mankind's demand for natural resources officially exceeds the earth's ability to regenerate them within a year.

Global Footprint Network president Mathis Wackernagel said that despite Hong Kong's biocapacity deficit, the city could still leverage on "innovation power and many efficiency advantages to take the lead in sustainable development".

Despite a dubious environmental record, China had a smaller ecological footprint than Hong Kong this year, ranking 72nd largest on a global scale. This was due to its larger population and land mass.

 

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This article is now closed to comments

honkiepanky
That's a really, really stupid measure of environmental impact.
blue
Nobody really cares and people will not change their lifestyles in the developed world. It would be better to start to get serious about space colonization instead. O'neil cylinders are feasible with existing technology and would be provide a great opportunity for space mining of resources.
mattfletcher
Regardless of the validity of the argument either way, surely the underlying message is that real tangible action is required to address the larger Hong Kong environmental issues...air quality, waste management, energy efficiency, etc etc...all of which remain in limbo with the government largely inept and unwilling to move into action.
johndoe
This headline is not very fair to Hong Kong. The impact of Hong Kong is relatively lower than all except China and Japan in the study. Hong Kong has efficient public transport and people live in high rises which lowers energy consumption a lot. Besides Hong Kong generates an economic surplus which means Hong Kong delivers value elsewhere.
Instead of looking at rather arbitrary and high level subjective things like "footprint" and "biocapacity", look at specific hard numbers to identify areas of strength and weakness in particular areas. That would be more meaningful.
ninacheung
Whoah blue, it's not enough for you that we are destroying the Earth, you want to start to destroying other planets as well?
blue
There are millions of earth like planets out there. Besides I am not (yet) advocating the colonization of planets. I am advocating the creation of artificial worlds (AKA O'Neil Cylinders) as well as the mining of asteroids for minerals. Eventually we can start to colonize other earth like planets too once we reach that level of technology.

Sooner or later humanity will have to leave this rock because the sun isn't going to last forever whether we trash the earth or not.

Besides you are part of the problem as anyone (including me) else. Without a doubt your lifestyle requires the use of more than one earth if everyone on the planet decided to live your life. This is a problem with every developed country, but especially a "barren rock" like HK which has limited natural resources.
Camel
@Blue
the point is that you should care about your enviroment and leave a place once you are gone worth living for the next generations. the point is you should care that every single waste, rubbish you create and throw away will fill land. Or, at latest you will care if the next landfill will be close to your home.
blue
People talk a lot about caring for the environment, but if you are living in HK, no matter how much you "care" about the environment, you are still going to end up with a large ecological deficit simply due to the dependence of imported goods in this city.

Also the city needs to enter the 21st century and use incinerators rather than landfills.

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