Putting biodiversity into the national accounts: Creating a new paradigm for economic decisions
Economics has long taken precedence over the environment in both governmental and business decision making, with the System of National Accounts and the indicator GDP coming to represent much that is wrong with the current environmental conditions. Increasing recognition of the environmental damage human activity causes and that human well-being depends on biodiversity and ecosystems means that new systems to measure and sustainably manage the world are needed. Integrating the environment into national accounts has been suggested as a way to improve information but so far impact on decision making is limited. This outlook needs to change. Using examples from Australia and Botswana, we show how integrating information on biodiversity, resource use and the economy via accounting can help create a new decision-making paradigm and enable a new policy framing with spending on biodiversity conservation and sustainability seen as an investment, not a cost.
KeywordsBiodiversity conservation Ecosystem services Environmental accounting Natural capital accounting System of Environmental-Economic Accounting
Ecosystem accounting research at the ANU has been supported by the Fujitsu Laboratories, Japan, the National Environmental Science Program of the Australian Department of the Environment and Energy. A large number of people and organizations have contributed to the development of the ideas and experiences presented in this paper. In particular, we thank, Phil Gibbons, Peter Burnett, Steven King, Daniel Juhn, Steve Bass, Sofia Ahlroth, Arjan Ruijs, Juan-Pablo Castaneda, Stig Johansson, Ogopotse Pule, Dimpho Galegane, Suzi Bond, Mark Eigenraam, Tony Varcoe and Rocky Harris as well as the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the United Nations Statistics Division and the World Bank.
- Bass, S., S. Ahlroth, A. Ruijs, and M. Vardon. 2017. Natural capital accounting for policy—a global view of achievements, challenges and prospects. In Forum on Natural Capital Accounting for Better Policy Decisions: Taking Stock and Moving Forward, ed. M. Vardon, S. Ahlroth, S. Bass, and A. Ruijs, 17–29. Washington D.C.: World Bank.Google Scholar
- Convention on Biological Diversity, Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020, including Aichi Biodiversity Targets. https://www.cbd.int/sp/targets/.
- Department of Water Affairs. 2017. Botswana Water Accounting Report 2015/16. Gaborone, Department of Water Affairs, Botswana. https://www.wavespartnership.org/en/knowledge-center/botswana-water-accounting-report-201516.
- European Commission, Food and Agriculture Organization, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, United Nations, and World Bank. 2009. System of National Accounts 2008. New York: United Nations. https://unstats.un.org/unsd/nationalaccount/docs/SNA2008.pdf.
- Natural Capital Coalition. 2016. Natural Capital Protocol Principles and Framework. London: Natural Capital Coalition. http://naturalcapitalcoalition.org/protocol/.
- Nordhaus, W.D. and J. Tobin. 1972. Is growth obsolete? In Economic Research: Retrospect and Prospect vol. 5: Economic Growth, ed. W.D. Nordhaus and J. Tobin, 1–80. Cambridge: National Bureau of Economic Research. http://www.nber.org/chapters/c7620.
- Pule, O.B. and D. Galegane. 2017. Water accounts and management in Botswana. In Forum on Natural Capital Accounting for Better Policy Decisions: Taking Stock and Moving Forward, ed. M. Vardon, S. Ahlroth, S. Bass, and A. Ruijs, 61–66. Washington D.C.: World Bank.Google Scholar
- Repetto, R. 1987. Creating Incentives for Sustainable Forest Development. Ambio 16: 94–99. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4313333.
- Rockström, J., W. Steffen, K. Noone, Å. Persson, F. S. Chapin, III, E. Lambin, T. M. Lenton, M. Scheffer, et al. 2009. Planetary Boundaries: Exploring the Safe Operating Space for Humanity. Ecology and Society 14: 32. http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol14/iss2/art32/.
- United Nations, European Commission, Food and Agriculture Organization, International Monetary Fund, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, World Bank. 2014. System of Environmental-Economic Accounting 2012—Central Framework. New York: United Nations.Google Scholar
- United Nations, European Commission, Food and Agriculture Organization, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, World Bank. 2014. System of Environmental-Economic Accounting 2012 – Experimental Ecosystem Accounting. New York: United Nations.Google Scholar
- United Nations. 1992. Report on the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development Annex 1. The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, A/CONF.151/26(Vol. I). New York: United Nations.Google Scholar
- United Nations. 2015. Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, A/RES/70/1. New York: United Nations.Google Scholar