Qatar has the highest ecological footprint per person in the world, according to new research by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
The Living Planet Report 2012 said the gas-rich Gulf state was putting the biggest demand on the earth’s ecological systems, despite having a limited ‘biocapacity’, or ability to regenerate resources.
Its ecological footprint totalled 11.64 gha, representing the amount of biologically productive land and sea area needed to supply the resources its population consumes, and absorb its waste.
Qatar was closely followed by Kuwait and the UAE, which had footprints of 9.68 gha and 8.4 gha respectively.
“The ecological footprint is driven by consumer habits and the efficiency with which goods and services can be provided,” said the report.
“An individual’s ecological footprint varies significantly depending on a number of factors, including their country of residence... If all of humanity lived like an Indonesian, for example, only two-thirds of the world’s biocapacity would be used.”
According to the report, higher income countries have an ecological footprint on average five times that of low-income countries, but declines in biodiversity have been most rapid in the latter.
In addition to over-consumption, fast human population growth and urbanisation are thought to be critical driving forces behind recent environmental pressure.
Other countries with high ecological footprints include Denmark, the US, Belgium, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands and Ireland.
Researchers say our demand on natural resources has become unsustainable.
“We are living as if we have an extra planet at our disposal,” said Jim Leape, director general of WWF International.
“We are using 50 percent more resources that the earth can sustainably produce and unless we change course, that number will grow fast – by 2030, even two planets will not be enough.”