The meeting covered developments within the UK to use Natural Capital Accounting and considerations of ecosystem services within planning and economic strategy, at national and sub-national levels, and within business.
Richard’s presentation focused on the prospects for Natural Capital Accounting by business.
“Natural Capital Accounting is a logical next step from greenhouse gas accounting and moves by WBCSD and WRi to develop a reporting protocol are welcomed.
At this stage we are still seeing activity dominated by a few innovative companies, willing to take the lead. Our expectation is that this will be taken up by business more broadly in the same way that GHG accounting was over the past decade, but only once standarised protocols and approaches have emerged.
In the current state of development businesses and government bodies should be encouraged to go ahead with processes that fit their needs, even if the theory and protocols are still under development. The practical experience of learning by doing is essential to produce effective and workable methods that provide genuine benefits to business as well as improved decisions from an environmental perspective.
Issues such as trade-offs between “productive” and “pristine” natural capital values need to be tackled head on. The social aspects of access to ecosystem services, along with questions such as “who benefits” and “who pays” are also important to address.
Richard used an image showing shrimp farms and mangroves in Sri Lanka to illustrate some of the tensions and complexity in Natural Capital accounting.
In the early days of GHG accounting similar complexities were resolved by agreeing specific approaches to categorising activities (e.g. into Scopes). The same thing needs to happen with Natural Capital.”