Advancing natural capital thinking through Ecosystem Accounting: opportunities and barriers

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Carl Obst, Mark Eigenraam, Reiss McLeod

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Natural capital thinking provides a framing for linking economic and human activity to the environment. It can place in context both our dependence on the environment and our impacts on it and do so in a way which supports links to standard approaches to decision making. Thus, natural capital thinking encourages us to see the economy and society in which we live as nested within the environment and hence the environment must be an integral part of the way in which we take decisions. While the general principles of and motivations for natural capital thinking are long established, they have not been described in a consistent way and many well motivated initiatives have not gained sufficient traction such that natural capital thinking has been mainstreamed. The System of Environmental-Economic Accounting РEcosystem Accounting (SEEA EA) is gaining prominence as a broadly accepted conceptual and methodological framework to record and analyze people’s use of ecosystems. Through its origins in official statistics, SEEA EA provides a means to institutionalise natural capital thinking and embed a common language around natural capital thinking. In turn this provides the opportunity to draw together the variety of initiatives and achieve a level of awareness and scale that has not been possible to date. This presentation works through the evolution and framing of the SEEA EA and its links to the general body of work on natural capital thinking. From this base it then provides examples of how SEEA EA has been applied to decision making and hence demonstrates the potential of common approaches to natural capital thinking to contribute to the mainstreaming integrated decision making about the environment. Finally, the presentation considers a range of opportunities to advance natural capital thinking using the SEEA EA framing as the starting point including in the corporate sector and through the consideration of multiple capitals. Barriers to advancement are also considered.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program