04.10.2012 - UNESCO Office in Venice

What Do Ecological Deficits Mean for the Nations of the Mediterranean?

©Global Footprint Network - Mediterranean Ecological Footprint Trends

Amid Venice’s bustling tourist activity, its iconic art, gondolas, and church bells, dozens of government representatives, NGO leaders and academics met this week in Venice to discuss the links between ecological and economic crises in the Mediterranean region.

The international conference on “Securing Competitiveness for the Mediterranean” opened Monday and addressed the Mediterranean’s ever-widening ecological deficit and its economic implications, main theme of the Mediterranean Ecological Footprint Trends report, published by Global Footprint Network. Representatives from more than 12 Mediterranean countries attended the event.

Despite recent headlines about financial debt and economic reform, the region’s ecological deficit (when the Ecological Footprint exceeds biocapacity) has remained largely unreported. As suggested by the theme of the conference - “Exploring Ecological Footprint and biocapacity trends and their implications for the Mediterranean”- the purpose was to obtain a clear-eyed assessment of the Mediterranean region’s ecological deficit, and to explore what it means for the region’s long-term economic security.

Day one of the conference dove into the report’s findings. Mediterranean nations have nearly tripled their demand for renewable natural resources and ecological services since 1961. By 2008, the region’s Ecological Footprint - the demand on Earth’s bioproductive land and sea areas - exceeded local ecological assets by more than 150 percent. Mediterranean nations’ dependence on the availability of ecological assets outside the region exposes them to supply disruptions or price volatility. This is increasingly true as trade partners have shifted from nations with ecological reserves to those with ecological deficits. As competition for limited resources heats up, it leaves those with declining purchasing power in a potentially precarious situation.

Day two of the conference was dedicated to exploring how the findings of the Mediterranean Ecological Footprint Trends report can be used to develop innovative and proactive responses (ranging from policy interventions to reforms of education systems) to the region’s growing ecological deficit and the emerging global competition for resources and ecosystem services. Participants discussed the need to shift from a silo to a systemic approach in governance, as well as the need to incorporate a one-planet thinking into educational programs and awareness campaigns to mobilize both policy makers and civil society.

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