The Living Planet Report 2012

By Bhavani Prakash


If you imagine Planet Earth having a routine health check, the Living Planet (LPR) report would be its biennial diagnostic report. The study is a science based analysis of the state of the planet – the health of our forests, rivers and oceans, as well as the impact of humans.

Dr Chris Hails, Director, Network Relations, WWF International discussed the key findings of LPR 2012 on 16th June 2012 at the Botany Centre, Singapore Botanic Gardens.


Video link here

1. LIVING PLANET INDEX : The poor are bearing the brunt

The Living Planet Index (LPI) measures the changes in the state of the planet’s ecosystems by studying population trends of more than 2500 species. The LPI reflects the biodiversity of the earth.

The Global LPI, whose data is provided by the Zoological Society of London, showed a 28% decrease during the time period of 1970 to 2008, while in tropical countries, the decline was to the tune of 60%. This reflects the rapid destruction of natural habitats in the last 30 years.

The LPI in temperate countries increased by 31% over the same period, which could be a result of environmental conservation.  As Dr Hails pointed out, most of the biodiversity in temperate areas declined during and after the industrial revolution – big historical losses which are not reflected in the time period under study.

The global terrestrial, freshwater and marine indices all declined, with the freshwater index declining by 37%. The tropical freshwater index’s decline by 70% is most alarming.

The biodiversity trends of high, middle and low income countries also reflect disparities. The index shows a 7% increase in high income countries, a 31% decrease in middle income countries and a 60% decline in low-income countries, showing that poorer nations are rapidly losing their biodiversity. It is the poor who are most dependent on nature directly for their livelihoods and sustenance.


 2. ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT: The rich are overconsuming

The Ecological Footprint measures the amount of land area per person, needed to produce renewable resources, including the area of vegetation required to reabsorb the carbon being emitted into the atmosphere. In 2008, humanity’s ecological footprint was 18.2 billion global hectares (gha) or 2.7 gha per person

This is compared with Biocapacity or the area of land actually available to produce renewable resources and absorb carbon emissions. The earth’s biocapacity in 2008 was 12.0 billion gha, or 1.8 gha. 

This difference between the ecological footprint and biocapacity represents an ecological overshoot. It takes 1.5 years to regenerate the renewable resources required to sustain the current human population. Another way of expressing the same is that we’re using the resources of 1.5 planets to keep us ticking. Instead of living off our natural capital, we’re living off the interest.

There are huge footprint disparities amongst nations. Higher income, more developed countries have in general a higher footprint than poorer, less developed countries. The top 10 countries with the largest Ecological Footprint per person are Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Denmark, the United States, Belgium, Australia, Canada, Netherlands, and Ireland.

Singapore ranks 12th in its Ecological Footprint, which would require 3 and a half planets to sustain this level of consumption.

If you click on the filter of “carbon” on the interactive graph above, Singapore ranks 5th in the world in its carbon footprint, and the highest amongst Asia-Pacific countries.

According to BBC News, ” It’s a view that doesn’t sit well with the government because the report attributes emissions to the country where carbon is consumed, instead of where it is produced.

The WWF explains that if a car is made in Japan but exported to Singapore, its carbon emissions are counted under Singapore not Japan.”

Dr Hails also highlighted that China and India are likely to experience the greatest increase in footprint by 2015, equal to 37% of the world’s total.


3. PRESCRIPTION FOR THE PLANET- Business as Usual is not a choice

As Jim P. Leape, Director General, WWF International said recently, “We are living as if we have an extra planet at our disposal. We are using 50 per cent more resources than the Earth can provide, and unless we change course that number will grow very fast – by 2030, even two planets will not be enough.

“But we do have a choice. We can create a prosperous future that provides food, water and energy for the 9 or perhaps 10 billion people who will be sharing the planet in 2050.”

Source: The Living Planet Report 2012


Dr Hails highlighted a few solutions especially certifications that are improving the sustainable use of resources.  These encompass:

1. The Forest Stewardship Council certification for sustainable timber and products such as furniture and paper, which do not overexploit forests.

2. The Marine Stewardship Council certification which helps consumers identify fish which are endangered.  80% of the world fish stocks are overexploited, according to FAO which predicts that the stock of fish species for food is expected to collapse by 2048.   Singapore in particular can take action to limit its impact on the ‘coral triangle’, a biodiverse but threatened tropical fisheries zone, by encouraging sustainable fish consumption, as Dr Hails mentions in the video.  WWF’s Sustainable Seafood Guide is available for download here.

3. The Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil, which is working on sustainable palm oil to protect tropical rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia.  As Michelle Desilets pointed out in an earlier interview with EWTT, the RSPO has its loopholes, but as ‘the only game in town’ , the process needs to be strengthened and made more robust.


To read the full Living Planet Report 2012, please click this link. 



Bhavani Prakash is the Founder of Green Collar  She is a sustainability recruiter, speaker, trainer and writer can be contacted at bp[at] Follow Green Collar Asia on Facebook, TwitterLinked IN 


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