Footprint report reveals Hong Kong's ecological deficit

Posted: 12 January 2009

At 4.4 global hectares per person, Hong Kong residents have an Ecological Footprint twice that typical for China as a whole. Hong Kong also has one of the greatest ecological deficits in the world, according to Hong Kong Ecological Footprint Report: Living Beyond Our Means. The report details Hong Kong's resource use and its role in the overall ecological picture of China - a country that now ties with the US as the largest user of the world's biocapacity.

About one-third the size of Rhode Island (the US's smallest state), Hong Kong is small in size, yet this island metropolis has tremendous influence on China and the world. It also demands 250 times more living resources than what is available within its own borders, creating a significant dependence on global resources that are becoming ever less abundant.

Hong Kong's ecological footprint
Hong Kong's ecological footprint
To meet its resource needs, Hong Kong imports significant resources from elsewhere: an amount, in fact, equivalent to the entire biological capacity of Ireland. Hong Kong also maintains its ecological deficit by using the atmosphere as a waste sink-putting more carbon into the atmosphere than can be reabsorbed by its land area.

Carbon, overfishing are major factors

Carbon is by far the biggest factor in Hong Kong's level of resource demand, accounting for about 80 per cent of its Footprint. It's also Hong Kong's fastest-growing Footprint component: since 1965, the region's per-capita Footprint has more than doubled; its carbon component has increased seven-fold in that time.

Sources of Hong Kong's fish imports
Sources of Hong Kong's fish imports
Overfishing is another contributor to unsustainable consumption. In recent decades, Hong Kong has become the major provider in the region of live reef fish, a prized specialty food in Asia. Due to intense demand, stocks of the fish were depleted in the South China Sea by the end of the 1980s; fishing has now expanded far beyond those waters, threatening stocks in the Pacific and Indian Oceans as well.

Vulnerability

As a place with little productive area of its own, Hong Kong has had an ecological deficit throughout modern history - but its dramatic growth in the last few decades makes the region increasingly vulnerable. "In an era of ever-more limited resources, it will be in Hong Kong's interest to take its ecological balance sheet seriously and limit its resource dependence if it is to stay prosperous and competitive," said Global Footprint Executive Director Mathis Wackernagel.

The Hong Kong Report calls for several ways for Hong Kong to become more "resource savvy," such as adopting effective fisheries management practices and moving away from the coal-fired power stations that provide the majority of Hong Kong's electricity and toward clean energy sources.