Three Middle East countries have the biggest environmental footprints in the world, putting the region on the brink of ecological bankruptcy, according to a new report.
The study released by the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) said available natural resources have more than halved during the last 50 years while consumption levels are over twice what local ecosystems can produce.
The report showed that Qatar has the highest ecological footprint in the world, followed by Kuwait and UAE.
It backed up previous findings by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) whose Living Planet Report in May said Qatar was putting the biggest demand on the earth’s ecological systems.
The latest AFED study said if all humans lived like the average resident of Qatar, 6.6 planets would be required to satisfy this level of consumption and emissions of carbon dioxide.
Residents in Qatar consume on average more than 13 times that of residents of Yemen, it added.
The AFED said decision makers in the Arab world will need to look beyond GDP as the sole measure of performance, and must seek to complement traditional economic analysis with data on resources consumption and availability.
The report was published at AFED's conference in Beirut where the President of Lebanon Michel Sleiman said: "Facts and figures in AFED's report are alarming. The report should be nationally disseminated and used by all Arab countries.
"Its results and recommendations should be discussed by all sectors to integrate them in strategies".
The report added that most Arab countries suffer an ecological debt. Compared to 1961, the average ecological footprint of the region has increased by 78 percent, from 1.2 to 2.1 global hectares per capita.
It said there were two main drivers - a 3.5-fold increase in population size, leading to higher overall consumption and a sharp rise in the amount of resources and services consumed per person as a result of higher incomes and changing lifestyle patterns.
"The vast deficit in the region's ecological resources is largely bridged by imports and an over-exploitation of finite local resources. This is an unsustainable strategy," the report warned.
The AFED said that while setting development targets is considered a sovereign national right, economic growth "must take into account ecological limits and the capacity of nature to sustainably support life".
The report also warns of increasing food deficits, saying achieving food security "requires regional cooperation".
It said regional programmes in scientific research were "key to achieving sustainable and equitable growth for all".
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