Shrink & Share

Eliminating overshoot means closing the gap between humanity’s Ecological Footprint and the planet’s biocapacity.
If the global community agrees in principle, decisions are then needed on how much to shrink its footprint, and how this reduction in aggregate human demand is to be shared between individuals and populations.

Possible allocation strategies could include an absolute allotment of footprint shares, or an initial distribution of rights or permits to consume, which could then be traded between individuals, nations, or regions.

Any acceptable global strategy will be influenced by ethical and economic as well as ecological considerations.

Allocation Strategies

The allocation strategies discussed here illustrate how the current regional distribution could change, based either on the relative proportion of current biocapacity or world population in each region.

Allocations could be fixed, or varied in proportion to a region’s changing percentage of either factor.

Targeted reductions for regional footprints might be set proportional to current baselines, in a similar way to the framework adopted by the Kyoto Protocol for greenhouse gases.

Some might argue that this rewards regions with historically high levels of consumption and population, while penalizing those that have already begun to reduce their total demand on ecosystems.

Developing the logic behind frameworks for reducing human demand is straightforward when compared to the challenge of implementing the process.

Share of global footprint

By biocapacity
A second option might see each region being allocated a share of the global footprint in proportion to its own biocapacity.

Regions could augment their biocapacity through trade with regions that have biocapacity reserves. This strategy could be modified to address the very large discrepancies in available biocapacity that currently exist between regions and nations.
By Population
The global footprint could be shared on an equal per capita basis, with mechanisms established to enable nations and regions to trade their initial excess allocations.

Similar to a proposal for sharing rights to greenhouse gas emissions, such a strategy would in one sense be strictly egalitarian. But this approach, which is probably politically unrealistic, rewards countries with growing populations, ignores historical circumstance, and disregards varying needs in different parts of the world.
Negotiating, selecting, and combining these or other allocation schemes will require unprecedented global cooperation if the shrinking of humanity’s footprint is to be achieved.

In considering the costs and complexity of meeting this challenge, the global community may want to take into account not only how it will afford to undertake such a project, but also the ecological and human welfare consequences of failing to do so.
Donate to WWF

Your support will help us build a future where humans live in harmony with nature.