AFED 2012 Annual Report

The 2012 AFED report will analyze sustainability options in Arab countries, based on a survey of available renewable resources (biocapacity) and consumption (footprint).

As basis for the analysis, AFED has commissioned the Global Footprint Network (GFN), who are world leaders in this field, to produce an Ecological Footprint Atlas exploring resource constraints in the Arab countries from the perspective of the regenerative capacity of nature. The study covers the period from 1961 to 2008, the last year data is available. It covers the 22 members of the League of Arab States as: individual countries, sub-regions and region, which allows for comparisons.

The Ecological Footprint aims to provide an ecological bank statement for the Arab region, evaluating its endowment of ecological services and contrasting this with its demand on the global biosphere, both for resource provision and waste absorption. It is hoped that the 2012 AFED report on Sustainability Options in the Arab Countries will help promote the concept of ecological accounts and move towards their integration in decision-making.

The AFED 2012 report will aim at stating the facts. Ignoring signs of deterioration will not solve the problem. But we don’t seek to promote a doomsday prophecy. The report will call to face the challenges and find alternative paths for development in positive and hopeful spirit.

Based on the GFN results and the findings of previous AFED Annual Reports, AFED will prepare an analysis of about 20,000 words to constitute the core of its 2012 report, entitled: Sustainability Options in Arab Countries. A small group of experts, who have already contributed to previous AFED reports, have been invited to contribute to this analysis, which will then be compiled and professionally edited in a unified piece. Below is plan of main topics and messages:
1- Can any single Arab country, the Arab region as a group or any of its sub-regions, be self sufficient in food/water, and at what cost? What are the alternatives?
2- Sustainability of rising population. Special analysis: impact of rising percentage of expatriates in GCC countries. Are the ecosystems of GCC countries prepared to sustain ‘imported’ population of up to 90% expatriates? Is it growth for growth, or growth for sustainability?
3- Sustainable Energy, Intensity, Efficiency and Renewables, as a strategy to reduce footprint and harness non-conventional resources- eg. desalination of water.
4- How to? Resource development. Resource Efficiency. Alternative paths to sustainability.
5- Benefits of regional cooperation for sustainability: in food production, energy, research and development.
Between 25-30 April, AFED organized regional consultations (in Cairo, Beirut and Amman) to discuss preliminary findings.

The results for the Arab region Ecological Footprint survey are critical for understanding the region’s competitive advantages and disadvantages. Here are highlights of the findings:

* The average Ecological Footprint per capita in the Arab region increased 85 percent, from 1.2 gha to 2.2 gha per capita, between 1961 and 2008
* Population has increased 250 percent over the same period; the overall regional Ecological Footprint has therefore increased more than 500 percent.
* Between 1961 and 2008, the available biocapacity per capita in the Arab region decreased 60 percent, from 2.2 gha per capita to 0.9 gha per capita
* 4 nations alone contribute more than 50 percent of the Arab region’s Ecological Footprint: Egypt (22 percent), Saudi Arabia (14 percent), UAE (10 percent), and Sudan (9 percent)
* Only 2 nations provide approximately 50 percent of the biocapacity of the Arab region: Sudan (32 percent) and Egypt (17 percent)
* Since 1979 the region has been in a situation of biocapacity deficit, with its demand for ecological services increasingly exceeding its supply. In order to maintain this situation, the import of ecological services from outside the region’s borders was necessary.
* Other than in the GCC countries, the average inhabitant’s Footprint is small compared to the rest of the world, and in many cases it is too small to meet basic food, shelter, health and sanitation needs. In order to make vital quality of life improvements, large segments of the region’s population must have greater access to renewable natural resources. Meeting this need will involve multiple strategies: large improvements in resource efficiency; expansion of biocapacity without resource intensive production; and, since it is likely that the Ecological Footprint of this region will then rise, a corresponding decrease in the Ecological Footprint of other regions will be required.

These findings make it clear that the region may be rapidly approaching a situation where the imbalance between domestic supply and demand for ecological services places a limit on future growth and well-being. This report thus aims to encourage decision-makers, and the general public, to incorporate ecological accounting into their daily practices so that the region can maintain a competitive advantage well into the future.