An ecological footprint of Liverpool

The project explores the ecological footprint of Liverpool, providing an understanding into the ecological sustainability of the city. Liverpool was selected as the pilot study to examine whether the ecological footprint is an effective measurement of sustainability. The ecological footprint ofa designated population is the area of productive land and water ecosystems required to produce the resources that the population consumes and assimilate the wastes that the population produces, wherever on Earth the land and water is located. Firstly, an intensive data collection exercise was employed, with the help of Liverpool City Council, to understand the necessary components that make up the footprint calculation.Information was collected concerning transport (both freight and passenger), waste (commercial,domestic and industrial), materials (food, paper and timber),water (domestic and industrial), housing stock and built land, energy use (domestic, Service sector and industrial) and biodiversity protection. All the data helped to establish an ecological footprint of Liverpool.Liverpool has a total ecological footprint of 4.15-hectares/per capita, compared to the UK average of 4.9 hectares/per capita. This means that the average Liverpool resident requires approximately4 hectares of land to supply them with all their necessary resources, their transportation needs and the use and disposal of those resources. Of the world's population, 80.3% has an ecological footprint smaller than 4 hectares, and their total share of humanity's footprint is 38.3%. Their average footprint is 1.36 hectares. The other 19.7% of the population occupy 61.7% of humanity's footprint, which in itself is already at least 20% larger than the available capacity of the biosphere. To be considered sustainable, Liverpool would have to reduce its ecological footprint by 130%. Waste has the highest ecological impact (1.6 Ha./per cap), followed by the provision of bio-resources (1.1 Ha./per cap), then transport (0.7 Ha./per cap) (both passenger and freight), utilities(0.63 Ha./per cap), biodiversity protection (0.3 Ha./per cap) and finally buildings and land (0.1Ha./per cap). A sustainable ecological footprint, taking into account the protection of biodiversity, is 2-hectares/per capita. Sustainable scenarios, suggesting how Liverpool could achieve this within three key areas have been developed; these being energy, domestic waste and water.In the energy scenario three specific areas are highlighted for analysis - the City Council, home energy efficiency and commercial offices. In 1999, LCC consumed 72.4 GWh of electricity,which equated to 6,115 hectares. Several options are available to LCC, which would assist a reduction in energy consumption and its ecological footprint. Firstly, LCC could meet the UK government's targets for energy from renewable resources (5% by 2005 and 10% by 2010). Alternatively, it could set its own target of 20% renewable energy, which would reduce energy consumption by 35%. Furthermore, sufficient installation of Combined Heat and Power systems could reduce costs by 40% and result in energy consumption being reduced to less than 50GWhby 2010. However, by doing nothing, energy consumption will increase to 82 GWh by 2010.Liverpool has more than 50% of households, which can be considered as being in 'fuel poverty'. Should the full installation of energy efficiency measures be achieved then energy consumption could be reduced by up to 89% with a significant reduction of 53,813 hectares to the ecological footprint too. Energy consumption in the service sector tends to be ignored because it is assumed that it is a relatively small aspect of company business. However, ignorance could affect company competitiveness. The energy scenario for commercial offices is based on the DETR good office practice, which highlights the need to reduce energy consumption by 57%. Achieving this target by 2010 would result in a reduction of 71.19 GWh. Should the targets that are set in the energy scenarios be attained then the overall reduction of electricity consumption across the city would be approximately 70%. The waste scenario provides a detailed analysis of domestic waste in Liverpool if a 'business as usual approach' is adopted, and the potential reduction with either recycling or composting of materials such as paper, aluminium, steel, plastic and organics. The research illustrates that Liverpool will need to recycle 93% of domestic waste by 2021 just to counteract the projected increase in domestic waste in the city. Therefore, waste minimisation schemes are essential. The scenario indicates the reduction in the ecological footprint with the introduction of various de-materialisation programmes. The water scenario highlights the reduction in the ecological footprint with a reduction in leakage,as well as considering domestic water consumption. The scenario demonstrates the ecological footprint of key areas within United Utilities such as commercial vehicle use. A programme of toilet cistern replacement would not only conserve water (a saving of one third), it would also save energy (spent supplying the water), which would have a significant impact on the emission of CO2 and the ecological footprint Finally, the report examines further uses for the ecological footprint and highlights future research. The report suggests that the ecological footprint is the best available indicator for understanding regional sustainability and that this pilot study has demonstrated this. Therefore,any sustainability appraisal of a city or a region would benefit from the valuable insights that the ecological footprint offers.

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