Natural Capital Forum to be established, following Natural Capital Ireland conference earlier this week
“We may think of nature as priceless, but we must learn to recognize all its values.”
A Natural Capital Forum will be set up, to advance a comprehensive economic assessment of the whole range of resources, goods and services produced by the Irish environment, following a conference 28th-29th April.
More than 100 representatives of businesses, investors, State agencies, landowners, environmental NGOs and academics attended ‘Natural Capital: Ireland’s Hidden Wealth” at the National Botanic Gardens. The conference focused on finding ways to accurately measure, in economic terms, our ‘natural capital debt’ – the unacknowledged cost of environmental degradation and its impact on human wellbeing.
“Contemporary tax-payers, future generations, and the world’s poor, all pay this debt, whether we realize it or not,” Dr. Rudolf de Groot, a lead author of The Economics of Ecology and Biodiversity TEEB report, told the meeting. “We may think of nature as priceless, but we must learn to recognize all its values.”
The conference also considered the potential of restoration strategies to enhance and augment our natural capital, reversing the long, continuous trend of degradation in recent times.
The meeting was addressed by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan, who said that during Ireland’s economic crisis we had lost our focus on biodiversity, and that this had been to our detriment. He welcomed the conference’s contribution to highlighting the economic and social value of goods and services provided by nature.
After contributions from international and national experts in the field, the conference unanimously endorsed a proposal to establish a national Natural Capital Forum, which will be set up with the support of public and private agencies. EU member states have agreed to integrate Natural Capital Accounting into their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) calculations by 2020, and the Forum will assist in meeting this goal.
The independent organizing committee for the conference, chaired by Dr. Jane Stout of TCD’s Centre for Biodiversity Research, presented the following points to the final discussion session as a summary of the points raised at the conference:
• Comprehensive Natural Capital Accounting (NCA) has the potential to reveal the hidden wealth in our natural environment, ranging from the provision of flood control, fresh air and fertile land to health, recreational and aesthetic benefits.
• NCA can therefore better inform our policies, public and private, so that we can more effectively protect, promote, enhance and restore healthy ecosystems and the human wellbeing that depends on them. NCA expands our understanding of nature’s true value and reminds us that the health of our economy and society is directly dependent on healthy ecosystems.
• An independent natural capital forum should be established with two aims:
• a) To mainstream the concepts of NCA and ecosystem goods and services to the general public, commercial enterprises, landowners and public decision-makers;
• b) Assist state agencies, private businesses and landowners in developing sound metrics for NCA.
The conference was organized by Dr. Jane Stout, Paddy Woodworth, Dr. Declan Little, Dr. Catherine Farrell and Dr. Matthew Jebb. The event manager was Dr. Cara Augustenborg.