Ecological footprint per capita
The Global Footprint Network (GFN) ecological footprint indicator is the best known parameter for measuring the global environmental impact of end-user consumption. It measures the consumption of natural resources and expresses the area that would be necessary for the production of resources in global hectares (gha). The ecological footprint (expressed in absolute values or number of Earths) indicates whether and to what extent the use of nature exceeds the biosphere’s regenerative capacity (biocapacity). If humanity’s footprint exceeds the world’s biocapacity, nature is being overused on a global scale. This has been the situation since the 1970s.
Switzerland’s per capita ecological footprint is currently around 4.5 global hectares (gha) per capita. The globally available biocapacity per capita is 1.6 gha (GFN 2021). In other words, if everyone in the world were to consume at the same rate as people in Switzerland, around three Earths would be needed. This situation is thus assessed as negative.
The imbalance between Switzerland’s ecological footprint and global biocapacity has existed for decades and there is no clear trend towards ‘one Earth’. This development is thus assessed as negative .
- Related indicators
- Total environmental impact of consumption
Switzerland has one of the highest ecological footprints per capita in the world (51th place out of 214).
The ecological footprint includes all stages involved in the production of goods – from raw material extraction through the manufacture and transportation of goods to their use and disposal. Not only the goods consumed and emissions generated in Switzerland are taken into account here, but also those consumed and generated abroad. However, the environmental impact caused by exported goods and services is not taken into account as this is not attributable to domestic consumption.
The ecological footprint considers all of the land required for our consumption. This includes, for example, the agricultural land needed for food production as well as the land used for industrial production, roads and settlements. It also includes the forest areas we need to produce wood and absorb the CO2 emissions generated by the use of fossil fuels. To facilitate comparison on a global scale, the different land types are converted into average productive areas (global hectares or gha).
To calculate the agricultural footprint, the Global Footprint Network (GFN) considers the data of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and global average values for agricultural yields. These globally valid yields are considerably lower than the yields obtained in Switzerland in some cases.
From the end-consumer perspective, the ecological footprint reflects in one single figure direct land use, wild fisheries, and the forest area (theoretically) required to compensate for fossil CO2 emissions.
The ecological footprint is not a comprehensive environmental indicator. The use of fresh water and other renewable and non-renewable natural resources and the loss of biodiversity or the environmental impact caused by air pollutants, heavy metals and persistent pollutants are not taken into account. The indicator shows us that Switzerland’s resource use is around three times the sustainable level. The situation with regard to greenhouse gas emissions is considerably worse.
|Targeted trend||Initial value||Final value||Deviation from theoretical path in%||Observed trend||Assessment|
|1.6 n 2017||1961||2017||-0.91%||Opposite to the theoretical path||negative|