Thursday, June 14, 2012

Asian Pacific Biocapacity Growing Unbalance

Angsana leaves and flowers 

The Asian Pacific unit footprints in 2008 are presented in the last WWF Living Planet Report. They are closely related to the country achieved development. The absolute footprint levels- after factoring by the population- are necessary to assess the growing unbalance within the Asian Pacific territory.

Asian Pacific Population distribution

Asia Pacific area covers three distinctive ecozones: Indomalaya, Australasia and Oceania with extremely inhomogeneous population distribution (see figure 1):

o    3 hugely populated countries (200- 1400 mil): China, India & Indonesia with are around 74% of Asian Pacific population;
o    6 big countries (50-190 mil): Pakistan, Bangladesh, Japan, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam altogether about 17% ;
o    14 intermediate countries (1-45 mil): all around 9% on which South Korea, Myamar, Nepal, ,Malaysia - where I live -,  Australia, North Korea, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Lao, Papua, Singapore, New Zealand, Mongolia, Timor Leste;
o    Then we have around 15 very small countries (< 1 mil): mostly tiny islands which are presented as one group:  Brunei, Maldives, Fiji, Polynesia, New Caledonia, Micronesia, Tonga, Vanuatu etc..

Figure 1
 The unit footprints in Asia Pacific in 2008

The unit footprints (see Figure 2) are measured in gha per person. They are closely related to the country achieved development. Australia & Singapore's are the highest and very similar to US or Canada footprints. Mongolia footprint is also very high and this maybe is due to the huge amount of coal burning. South Korea, Japan, New Zealand even Malaysia are intermediary high and similar to EU. After, there are a group of 3 countries - around 2 gha per person- with Thailand, China and New Guinea. The remaining 13 countries are in the range of 1 gha per person including Indonesia (1.14), Philippines (0.99), India (0.87) and Pakistan (0.75).

On the other hand the highest unit biocapacity are located in Mongolia, Australia, New Zealand which are huge countries but with small populations that could be considered as “sources” of biocapacity for the other ones.

Is this a fair presentation concerning Singapore which is mostly an urban area with a very limited biocapacity? We know that the City-State has greatly improved its environment notably limiting car traffic, developing mass transport, building water protecting and cleaning capacities. A comparison with other city including Honk Kong or Kuala Lumpur should certainly be more relevant.

Figure 2

Absolute footprint and Asian Pacific biocapacity unbalance in 2008:

The absolute footprint levels (as opposed to the unit levels) are more pertinent to assess the unbalance with the various territory biocapacities which are mostly an attribute of their size and climate conditions.

We can derive the country absolute footprint by factoring the above unit footprints by the population (see figure 3). The situation is completely different and mostly impacted by 7 countries: Chinese, India, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Thailand and Australia which together amount to 5254 mil gha representing more than 85% of the overall Asian Pacific footprint.

Figure 3
 As we can see in Figure 3 there is an unbalance of 90% for the Asian Pacific area while for the planet we have only 30% unbalance. What does it means? When on average we need one and a half year for the planet to produce again all its yearly needed bio resources, the same figures for the Asian Pacific are two years needed for one year demand.

It looks like the Asian Pacific area is the biggest “sink” of biocapacity in the Planet with an unbalance around 2 883 mil gha which is more than twice the EU sink value (1 228 mil gha) or 4 times de North American sink value (730 mil gha).

Furthermore, we know that the "global" ecological footprint as proposed by the WWF is not very representative for Asia-Pacific region which development is based on an export-oriented model aiming the richest countries. The latest phase of globalization destroyed many industrial jobs in high-income countries and the greater part of them were relocated to Asia Pacific.

So the “real” footprint including biocapacity inputs in all the GDP and not only in household consumption should worsen the unbalance.

The WWF Living Planet Index in Asian Pacific

The WWF Living Planet Index is a composite indicator that measures changes in the size of wildlife populations to indicate trends in the overall state of global biodiversity. These measures of biodiversity of each ecosystem echo and clearly confirm the dramatic reduction in biocapacity in the Asian Pacific Ecozone in recent years.

Even if the Indopacific zone is one of the richest for living animals and species, its Living Planet Index as established by WWF declined by 64% during the last 40 years. While in the same period the WWF LPI for the overall Planet decreased by only 28%. Asia Pacific has the biggest reduction for all terrestrial, marine or fresh water populations or species monitored by WWF.    

These declines reflect large scale forest and other habitat loss across these realms, driven by logging, growing human populations, and agricultural, industrial and urban development. Tropical forest cover declined most rapidly in Southeast Asia between 1990 and 2005, with an estimated 0.6-0.8 per cent loss per year.

Asia Pacific Footprint in 2008 and Evolution since 2005

What is 2008 Asian Footprint made of?

We see (Figure 4) that the two biggest components in the Footprint are the CO2 and the Cropland expressed in hectare of ground land and forest needed for growing crop or absorbing the released Carbon. The Carbon is also time-wise the more dynamic component: on the last 10 years there was an absolute two fold increase.
Figure 4

The unbalance with biocapacity is mostly produced by Carbon release. The CO2 exceeding the natural absorption of forest and water biocapacity is stored in the atmosphere and leads to a deterioration of climatic conditions: GHE temperature rise, instability, extreme events etc..

Footprint Evolution 2005-2008:

The Asian Footprint evolution 2005-2008 is recorded by WWF in its two reports: WWF Living Planet 2010 and WWF LPR 2012.

Asian Pacific footprint on this 3 years period (Figure 5) increased by 5,7% which is more than twice the Planet footprint increase during the same period. Asia Pacific needs more Fishing ground (almost doubling), Forest land produce or service, Built up land and Carbon regeneration; it needs less Crop land and Grazing land. The diet modifications resulting from higher income conditions maybe explain this profile with more fish and less cereal.

Figure 5

In the Asian Pacific zone the biggest increases by countries (Figure 7) are in China, Indonesia, India, Malaysia, South Korea, Myanmar, Thailand. Japan is the biggest decrease (-16%) and some developed countries are slightly reducing: North Korea, Australia, New Zealand. 

Figure 6

Conclusion: Asian Pacific ecological growing unbalance in 2008

When we factor the unit footprint or biocapacity by the population we have the footprint and biocapacity for the overall territory. By comparing both values we derive each country unbalances as a percentage of its biocapacity or as an absolute value (Figure 7).

Biocapacity sources are mostly in Australia, Indonesia, Mongolia, New Zealand, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea and Lao PDR. Altogether we have only 288 mil gha sourced internally which is less than 10% of its total biocapacity.

Biocapacity sinks are mostly in China, India, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Pakistan, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, North Korea, Sri Lanka. Altogether we have 3170 mil gha less the 288 mil gha sourced in the same zone which adds up to 2883 mil gha the global unbalance or 90% of biocapacity that needs to be sourced outside the zone.

This growing imbalance in the needs of biocapacity will become increasingly a factor limiting the growth of the Asian Pacific zone and a source of tension within and outside the area itself.

Moreover we must remember that the ecological "global" footprint as proposed by WWF is not very representative for the Asian Pacific zone which development is based on a model of export to richer countries. Thus, the "real" footprint, including addition of inputs of biocapacity in all various GDP components- not only household consumption- are expected to further exacerbate this imbalance.

Figure 7