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Developing the Ecological Footprint Research Initiative

Developing the Ecological Footprint Research Initiative

In 2017 York University was chosen by the Global Footprint Network (GFN) in a competition among invited Universities  to take over the scientific program of the Ecological Footprint, host the EF’s National Accounts Database and produce yearly Footprint reports, and to develop and lead a global academic network on the theme of sustainability assessment and the ecological footprint.  The Global Footprint Network offers a robust foundation of data, research and information on global biocapacity, ecological overshoot, and human development. Global Footprint Network has made its data accessible to York University to address a broader range of research questions that have emerged throughout the Network’s years of work. This offers a very unique and significant opportunity for FES faculty and students to contribute to knowledge about environmental assessment tools.

To work toward a partnership with GFN and Canadian stakeholders, on December 5th and 7th, 2017, we organized very productive meetings in Ottawa and Toronto on  to explore the role, relevance, and limitations of the methodology of the Ecological Footprint and Biocapacity.  Among interested agencies are Statistics Canada and Environment Climate Change Canada whose representatives have since been in touch to establish internships for our graduate students to develop capacity in this area.

In 2018 Prof. Bunch was awarded a SSHRC Insight Development Grant (“Developing the Ecological Footprint Research Initiative”) and a SSHRC Partnership Engagement Grant (“Building capacity for the ecological footprint national accounts in Canada”) to build York’s capacity for long term research and policy engagement with the Ecological Footprint.  As part of this, York and GFN held a joint workshop at York University October 9-12, 2018 to train project researchers and graduate student in the methodology of production of the EF numbers.  Work on these grants continues and will bridge the capacity development work and preliminary research of the York University research team until the anticipated date of award of the PG Grant.

Up next: York University and GFN are currently establishing the Footprints Data Foundation (FoDaFo), a Canadian-based not-for-profit organization. FoDaFo is charged with securing the continuity, reliability, rigor and utility of ever improving National Footprint Accounts through a yet-to-be established Accounting Unit at York, its public face. FoDaFo is advised by an academic council and a global academic network that researches methodological improvements. FoDaFo is supported by a coalition of countries.  We are now developing the Global Network on Sustainability Assessment and the Ecological Footprint, a SSHRC Partnership Grant that will build on previous and current work to start the global academic network.