Canada cuts wide energy swath
Wednesday, Sep 29, 2004
Canada cuts wide energy swath
By ALLISON DUNFIELD
Canada has the world's third-largest ecological footprint, a new report finds, meaning that if everyone in the world were as big a consumer of Earth's resources as Canadians are, it would take four Earths to support them.
An ecological footprint measures the impact each person or group makes on the environment. It's the naturally occurring area needed to both produce all the products a person needs and to absorb all of their waste.
The report, prepared for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities by economists from Anielski Management Inc., found that it takes 7.25 hectares of land and sea throughout the world to support each Canadian. However, the report says that Earth has 1.9 hectares of productive land and sea available for each person's need.
"By this measure, Canadians consume almost four times the Earth's capacity. In comparison, the United States has the world's second largest ecological footprint at 9.7 hectares per person. France, with a population twice the size of Canada's, has the 14th-largest footprint at 5.26," the report says.
Ann MacLean, the president of the FCM, said the report on consumption is useful for cities to look at how much impact they have on the environment and to "find ways to reduce" their impact.
"Communities and individuals can use this report as a guide to making the changes needed to reduce our impact on the planet while improving our quality of life," Ms. MacLean said in a statement.
The report found that among Canada's 20 largest municipalities and urban regions, York Region (10.33) (near Toronto), Calgary (9.86) and Edmonton (9.45) have the largest footprints, while the Niagara Regional Municipality (6.90), Quebec City (6.89) and Greater Sudbury (6.88), have the smallest. Toronto, at 7.39, was just above the Canadian average of 7.25. It found that the difference is mainly due to levels of consumption in these areas, and the kind of energy being used.
As well, use of carbon-rich fuels are associated with larger ecological footprints, the study said.
"In general, municipalities with higher household incomes have larger footprints," the report adds.
The study discusses ways to reduce household consumption and thus reduce the ecological footprint.
Those include decreasing driving and increasing walking or cycling, or using public transit, retrofitting homes to increase energy efficiency and driving fuel efficient vehicles.
Municipalities can use the information, the report said, to shape their priorities and budgeting for transportation, housing, and development.
"Benchmarking municipal, household and business footprints will help to identify best practices or models of efficient energy use, transportation, waste disposal, water and local food policies that yield smaller footprints," the report proposes.
York councillor Brenda Hogg, speaking for the federation, said that Canadians are consuming their portion of the world's natural assets at a rate that exceeds the earth's capacity.
"We need to design policies that conserve energy, reduce waste at the source and support the domestic production of goods."