AnalysesSwitzerland's ecological footprint
While the MONET indicator system shows the trends in several sustainable development areas, the Ecological Footprint provides highly aggregated, absolute figures indicating just how large human demand is compared to the regenerative capacity of nature.
Switzerland's Footprint is more than four times larger than its biocapacity
It currently measures 5 global hectares (gha) per capita. Our country's biocapacity, however, is a mere 1.2 global hectares per capita (data for 2007).
The main cause of this large Footprint is our energy consumption
Carbon emissions accounts for 64% of the Ecological Footprint, making it the most significant factor overall. Moreover, the carbon Footprint has also grown more rapidly over the last few decades than any other factor. Use of cropland, forests and pastures another major factor, account for 32% of the total Footprint.
We live at the cost of other world regions or future generations
Our country's Ecological Footprint has exceeded its biocapacity for several decades. This imbalance is maintained either by overexploiting our own natural resources or by importing ecological services from other countries. This latter includes formal imports as well as carbon sequestration demand on other nations’ ecosystems.
Mankind consumes the Earth’s natural resources faster than the Earth’s regenerative capacity
The world’s per-capita biocapacity is 0.9 gha less than its per-capita Footprint. Switzerland’s per capita Footprint is about the same as the Western Europe average. North America and some European countries consume up to 4.5 times more than world’s available biocapacity of 1.8 gha per person. Many countries of Southeast Asia and Africa, in contrast, use less than the globally available biocapacity per capita.
World map: Global distribution of the Ecological Footprint
The ecological footprint is a kind of “resource accounting”
It determines to what extent humans reduce the Earth’s regenerative capacity (biocapacity). The method takes into account intensity of consumption and depletion of natural resources caused by activities such as agriculture, carbon absorption and wood consumption to calculate exactly how much physical space is required to ensure sustainability. This physical space requirement, expressed in gha, is referred to as the Ecological Footprint and covers all forms of consumption. The Ecological Footprint shows the extent to which consumption of natural resources exceeds the biocapacity of a given region. If the mankind's Footprint exceeds the world's biocapacity that leads to the depletion of nature and to a not sustainable condition.
A study published in 2006 by the Federal Office for Spatial Development, the Federal Statistical Office, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the Federal Office for the Environment evaluated the method developed by the Global Footprint Network for Switzerland’s Ecological Footprint. The study also compared Global Footprint Network data (based primarily on United Nations sources) with official Swiss statistics. The findings from the study demonstrated that their data very closely matched our own.
Based on recommendations by this study and other government reviews by other nations, the method has been developed further. The Global Footprint Network recalculates results every year to produce updated and methodologically improved results. These results include Switzerland’s Ecological Footprint and biocapacity, as well as those of over 150 other countries.
To the report Switzerland's Ecological Footprint - A contribution to the sustainability debate
: a publication for the broad public, based on the study "The Ecological Footprint of Switzerland"