CANBERRA, Oct 25: Australians soak up more scarce resources than almost any other nation and produce so much waste on average that their mark on the world's ecology exceeds China, the environmental group WWF said.
The average Australian used 6.6 ''global'' hectares to support their developed lifestyle, ranking behind the United States and Canada, but ahead of the United Kingdom, Russia, China and Japan.
''If the rest of the world led the kind of lifestyles we do here in Australia, we would require three-and-a-half planets to provide the resources we use and to absorb the waste,'' said Greg Bourne, WWF-Australia chief executive officer.
Australia and the United States have refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, which obliges about 40 nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 5.2 per cent below 1990 levels by 2008-12, saying it is unfair because developing nations are exempt.
But that refusal meant Australia used more energy, food, timber and land per person than any of its regional neighbours, including New Zealand, Malaysia, South Korea and Thailand, WWF's Living Planet Report 2006 said yesterday.
Emerging powerhouse China used 1.6 hectares per person, while India used 0.8 hectares, WWF said.
With Australia in the grip of its worst drought on record and most cities facing tough water restrictions ahead of summer, the environment watchdog said water shortages in the world's driest inhabited continent were partly the result of over-consumption.
''The report confirms why it is that we are experiencing the kinds of problems we are right now, such as critical water shortages, the unprecedented decline of species, stressed fisheries and land degradation,'' Bourne said.
At current levels of global consumption, WWF said, humanity would be using two planets' worth of natural resources by 2050. Between 1961 and 2003 mankind's global footprint had tripled.
''As a planet, we are living beyond our ecological means,'' WWF said. Bourne called on Australia's government to set a greenhouse gas emission reduction target of 30 per cent by 2030 and end land clearing.
Australia and the United States are pushing for voluntary measures to cut emissions, and stronger cooperation on clean technology, under a six-nation climate initiative also involving South Korea, Japan, China and India.
Australia's Environment Minister Ian Campbell said the WWF report was ''a little harsh'' for measuring greenhouse gas emissions on a per-capita basis, as Australia exported massive amounts of energy.
''Also, in terms of threatened species, Australia has more native flora and fauna than any other country on the planet, so I think the measurements for this are a bit harsh on Australia,'' Campbell said in a statement.
He said the report found Australia was making progress, with emissions growth running slower than Australia's economic growth.