In October 2013, statisticians, economists, ecologists and policy makers from across Asia met in Bangkok to define ways of calculating the value of natural resources that could reshape the way country success is measured.
Systems of National Accounts, which produce numbers such as Gross Domestic Product, rarely value assets such as fertile soil, clean air and water, and often lead to decisions that promote their degradation. Green accounting approaches could help prevent further depletion of the planet’s natural resources. Experts at the conference discussed the steps to establish comprehensive wealth accounting methodologies that go beyond current Systems of National Accounts that have been used since 1950.
“Traditional measures of productivity such as GDP have not served us well,” said Gordon Johnson, Team Leader for the Environment team of the United Nations Development Programme in Asia and the Pacific. “It is time to ask the question, ‘what is nature worth?’ It is no longer enough to merely ask, ‘how much money are we making?”
While Asian countries have enormous range of biodiversity and natural wealth, the real value of their ‘natural capital’ is not taken into consideration by traditional government accounting systems.
Some countries further afield are pioneering natural capital accounting systems such as Systems of Environmental Economic Accounts (SEEA). Drought-prone Australia, has established natural capital accounts for water, energy, minerals, land, and environmental protection expenditure, and both Mexico and the United Kingdom have also adopted of natural capital accounting.
“The now internationally agreed SEEA Central framework and proposed Experimental Ecosystem Accounts have the potential to bring countries back on track to a more sustainable trajectory for development,” says Priya Shyamsundar, Executive Director for the South Asian Network for Development and Environmental Economics.
Check out the press release for more information.