Natural Capital Conference Report launched
The report from the conference Natural Capital: Ireland’s Hidden Wealth was launched at the EPA’s Environment Ireland 2014 event this week. The launch is the next step towards setting up a national forum to promote the integration of natural capital accounting into public policy and business practice. A workshop at the EPA event this morning heard that natural capital applies the economic concept of capital to nature, and to the goods and services derived from all ecosystems. Natural capital represents the stock of natural resources, biodiversity and ecosystem processes that provide us with the ecosystem goods and services on which our lives and livelihoods depend. However, our current economic indicators, such as GDP, capture only a fraction of the true value of natural capital. They may capture primary resource value – the timber value of a forest, for example – but omit the values of other benefits that the forest provides, such as flood and erosion alleviation, carbon sequestration, recreation opportunities, and so on. This means that the depreciation of natural capital through unsustainable primary resource exploitation often goes unnoticed – until it has disappeared. Understanding the crucial role of natural capital, and the need to account for, manage and where necessary, restore it, entails recognition that our economies are, in a very immediate sense, subsets of the environment. The key messages from the conference report are: The Natural Capital concept is a vital tool for the proper valuation of our environment and the protection of biodiversity and nature.
The concept is entering the mainstream of public debate, but needs to be communicated more clearly, accurately and comprehensively.
This goal will be advanced by establishing a National Natural Capital Forum, which will include a broad range of stakeholders from the public and private sectors. The forum will be announced in the near future, with assistance from the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Environmental Protection Agency. [Needs new report link]