Indicators for a healthy planet UT is founding member 'Planetary Accounting Network'

University of Twente is a founding member of the new ‘Planetary Accounting Network’ – a research centre focusing on the limits of a liveable planet. ‘Living well’ implies living on a healthy planet. How can we keep the planet healthy, stay well within its limits and, if possible restore its health? As an expert on worldwide water consumption, Prof Arjen Hoekstra of the University of Twente joins the new network.


The Planetary Accounting Network (PAN) aims at giving a better insight in and quantify the consequences of human behaviour on the planet’s health and condition: this can be behaviour of individuals, of a municipality, at corporate level. For this, the initiators have defined ten quantitative indicators. For years now, UT’s Arjen Hoekstra has stressed the influence of our lifestyle on global freshwater consumption. This is one of the indicators of PAN. We often don’t realize that we use large amounts of water elsewhere in the world, often in areas where it is scarce. Hoekstra’s ‘water footprint’ led to the insight that is of course possible to save some water in individual households, but that eating less meat or being more selective in your purchases has far more effect. In a recent article in 'UN Chronicle' of the United Nations, he emphasizes the need for fair sharing of scarce water resources.

The network adds the indicators CO2 emission, methane and nitrogen oxide emission, deforestation, ozon depletors, emission of aerosols, reactive nitrogen, phosphorus, diversity loss and imperishable waste. “Our expertise is in models for calculating water consumption”, Hoekstra says. “But these new indicators are not independent, they influence each other. That’s why it is a good idea to join forces and find quantitative ways together, in order to come up with recommendations for sustainable use of the earth’s resources. Or else, we run the risk of exploiting earth outside of its limits.”


Together with the launch of the network, a paper appeared in ‘Sustainable Earth’, titled  ‘The Planetary Accounting Framework: a novel, quota-based approach to understanding the impacts of any scale of human activity in the context of Planetary Boundaries’.

 The new initiative fits well within the UT research theme Engineering for a resilient world

The other partners are, at this moment: Massey University, New Zealand; the Water Footprint Network; Common Home of the Humanity (CHH); NZ LifeCycle Management; Ecometrics Consultancy; Bobux shoes; EcoChallenge; Ellen Ross Design.

Wiebe van der Veen
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