Putting biodiversity into the national accounts: Creating a new paradigm for economic decisions

Abstract

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.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    e.g. Aichi Biodiversity Target 2; see https://www.cbd.int/sp/targets/.

  2. 2.

    http://www.agriculture.gov.au/forestry/policies/rfa.

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Acknowledgements

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.

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Vardon, M., Keith, H., Obst, C. et al. Putting biodiversity into the national accounts: Creating a new paradigm for economic decisions. Ambio 48, 726–731 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-018-1114-z

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Keywords

  • Biodiversity conservation
  • Ecosystem services
  • Environmental accounting
  • Natural capital accounting
  • System of Environmental-Economic Accounting