York U to calculate progress on key UN Sustainable Development Goals

York University will lead an international research collaboration to calculate how well countries are managing their natural resources and meeting their United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The University has been chosen by California- and Switzerland-based non-profit Global Footprint Network to produce its National Footprint Accounts. These accounts show each country’s ecological footprint or overall demand on nature and the biocapacity of nature to regenerate.

Ravi de Costa

Ravi de Costa

Peter Victor

Peter Victor

The collaboration was announced April 17 in Ottawa at a reception for parliamentarians and senators hosted by MP Joyce Murray, MP Linda Duncan and Green Party Leader MP Elizabeth May. York University’s Faculty of Environmental Studies Dean Ravi De Costa and Professor Emeritus Peter Victor were present. Mathis Wackernagel, co-founder and CEO of Global Footprint Network, gave a presentation on the Ecological Footprint framework and emerging collaboration.

Rhonda Lenton

“Whether it is through teaching, research, engagement, or volunteerism, York University is committed to being a leader in sustainability and to addressing the challenges we face locally and globally, including those of ecological integrity,” said York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton. “This collaboration is a major opportunity for our researchers and their international partners, as well as for our graduate students. It will build on the innovative research and teaching underway in our Faculty of Environmental Studies to inspire positive change and action, shape public policy, support evidence-based decision-making, and foster sustainability as an embedded value.”

The National Footprint Accounts are the foundation of Global Footprint Network's Ecological Footprint accounting framework and are updated annually with the latest United Nations data sets. The National Footprint Accounts track the Ecological Footprint and biocapacity of more than 200 countries and regions. This Footprint data has been used by more than a dozen national governments to guide sustainability policy, including Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates, and many cities, such as Calgary and Vancouver. When coupled with the UN Human Development Index, the Footprint can help determine if countries are on track to meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

"By establishing the National Footprint Accounts at York University – a vibrant, independent, well-governed, and respected academic leader in sustainability – the accounts will become even more trusted and effective," said Wackernagel. "After spreading the use and recognition of Ecological Footprint accounting around the globe, this new placement at York will turn these accounts into an even more incontrovertible reference for public and private decision-making in support of sustainability."

The goal of the partnership is to make the National Footprint Accounts even more scientifically robust and widely used. An international hub at York University will not only update the accounts, but also coordinate, among international research institutions, methodological improvements to the Footprint Accounts.

In addition to hosting the Ecological Footprint database, York University will look into developing a new graduate program to support the production of the National Footprint Accounts.

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