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Climate change and environmental protection have to go hand in hand with development at the G8.

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Monday, 20 June 2005

Climate change and environmental protection have to go hand in hand with development at the G8.

As UK and Europe's environmental account plunges into the red, the UK urgently needs to take a new development path that puts more emphasis on the planet's precious resources.

In the run up to the G8 WWF has published a new report, Europe 2005 - The Ecological Footprint, showing that the twenty five members of the European Union have accumulated an environmental deficit of 220 per cent of their biological capacity. This means that Europeans now rely on the resources of the rest of the world to make up their increasing ecological deficit.

Stuart Bond, Sustainable Development Officer for WWF-UK, said: "Economic growth at the expense of depletion of natural resources and environmental degradation simply shifts the problem to other parts of the world. Reducing our pressure on nature is essential for the UK's prosperity and the development of African nations. Unless an environmental agenda goes hand in hand with a development agenda our credibility as an international leader will be in question."
Europe's consumption levels have to be met by importing natural resources, such as wood, metals or fish, from other countries. But, unlike any responsible business that carefully records its spending and income, Europe has so far not kept track of its ecological spending.
The WWF report measures the EU Ecological Footprint, which compares people's use of natural resources with nature's ability to produce them. With 7 per cent of the world population, the EU uses 17 per cent of the world resources supply. Its Ecological Footprint is 2.2 times the area of Europe, a figure that has risen by almost 70 per cent since 1961.
EU countries with the highest demand per person are Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Denmark, Ireland and France, using between three and four times the world sustainable average. Hungary, Slovakia and Poland have the lowest demand, but are still using about twice the average amount of resources available per person.

WWF argues that if the UK wants to be competitive in the short and long term, it is time to build a "smart economy" that decouples economic growth from resource consumption.
Tony Blair must give a higher priority to investments in ecosystems, granting EU funds conditional on the protection of nature and developing certification systems to ensure the sustainability of product manufacturing and resource use.
As energy consumption is a major cause of the UK's Ecological Footprint, moving from a fossil fuel economy to renewable energy economy would be a key way of reducing our environmental deficit. Tony Blair must take Climate Change seriously by hastening our moves to a low carbon economy and by making sure that the environmental agenda goes hand in hand with the development agenda.
Other measures that could be taken include eliminating perverse subsidies that have adverse social, economic and environmental effects and ensuring that development and aid policy is coherent with other policies, particularly environment.
"Time matters in addressing this ecological debt. The longer the G8 leaders ignore the problem the more expensive the investment required to correct it will be, and the greater the risk that critical ecosystems will be eroded beyond the point at which they can easily recover," added Stuart Bond.
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