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09 Oct 2012 09:10:28

Global summit to take the measure of sustainability

Ecoislands and Best Foot Forward partner to provide a definitive measure of sustainability for world’s island and regional communities.

We all want to do our bit for the planet but how much do we need to do? And how much should we be doing compared to everyone else? Too much in sustainability is uncertain, unclear or undefined. Whether it’s in the home or on a global scale, when it comes to tackling the challenge of a changing planet, clear and achievable goals are crucial to success.

On the 16 and 17 October, the Global Ecoislands Summit 2012 aims to simplify the journey to a sustainable future down to a very straightforward target - enabling every community around the world to live within their means. The summit will see delegates from island and regional communities from across the globe commit to achieving renewable energy self-sufficiency by 2020 and sustainability by 2030.

In collaboration with Best Foot Forward, who have developed guidance for global organisations including Coca Cola, Tesco, Eurostar and GlaxoSmithKline and who were responsibility for footprinting strategy and evaluation for London 2012, the Ecoislands Global Summit will herald a new definition of sustainability that is measurable, tangible and fundamental to our future.

Ecoislands will define sustainability as the point at which a community’s ecological footprint is no bigger than the land area that they occupy. Put simply, each island will make a commitment to reach a point where they can live within their means.

"Ecological footprints are not the only answer but they do provide an achievable target that is both comprehensive and comprehensible", explained Nicky Chambers, CEO of Best Foot Forward.

"If humanity were living sustainably, then our ecological footprint would be the same size, or less, than the planet we live on. It's not. Our ecological footprint, the land needed to produce the resources we use and deal with the waste we produce, is currently estimated at one and a half times our planet."

The concept can be made clear by looking at the example of the Isle of Wight, the home of Ecoislands' flagship project and the host island for this year's summit. A study carried out by Best Foot Forward had previously found that the Isle of Wight’s ecological footprint was equivalent to an area of productive land 2.4 times larger than the island itself.

To put this in context, if everyone in the world lived like people do on the Isle of Wight we would need nearly two and a half planets to sustain us. And they are not alone. Subsequent studies have shown that a world of equivalent Scots would need 1.8 earths and London’s ecological footprint spans 48,868,000 global hectares of productive land, a whopping 300 times larger than the city actually occupies.

Natural carbon sinks such as forests and oceans can’t keep pace with the amount of additional CO2 that human activity pumps into the atmosphere. Each year we take more fish from the oceans, more trees from our forests and more fresh water from our land than can be replenished. Securing our future will require radical changes.

"Although matching your ecological footprint to the same land area as your island or community is a conceptual idea, what it gives you is very real targets in terms of water, waste, energy, food and other resources, allowing islands to match where they are now to where they need to be, and put solid plans in place for achieving those targets", explains Chambers.

In conjunction with global technology partners including IBM, Toshiba, Cable&Wireless Worldwide, Sliver Spring Networks, Scottish and Southern Energy, Toyota, ITM Power and Southern Water, Ecoislands aims to provide the resources, finance and technology necessary to allow communities to achieve these targets within the next 20 years.

"Setting a workable definition of sustainability is an important first step, but the Ecoislands Summit is also focused on providing the necessary resources to turn those targets into reality", explained David Green, founder of Ecoislands.

"By bringing together major technology partners, providing access to funding and disseminating learning from our flagship project we will work together to develop a replicable GREENprint that will enable every region around the world to achieve the ambitious target of living within their means."

The summit will bring together 500 delegates from around the world and across the sector to share progress from Ecoislands' flagship project on the Isle of Wight, showcasing research and development activities, demonstration projects and community initiatives spanning energy, transport, fuel, water and waste management.

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