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GEO-6 Regional Assessment for North America


In 1992, the US vision for developing natural


capital


accounting used a phased approach. It proposed adding asset accounts in three iterations: first with minerals, already a commodity; second with renewable resources, which were beginning to prove themselves; and third with non- market public goods, such as clean air. It was assumed that if this phased approach were adopted, a useful initial step would be to refine the initial estimates of sub-soil minerals. Constructing forest accounts, focusing initially on timber, would have been a natural next step for integrated economic and environmental accounts. Other sectors that would be high on the priority list are those associated with agricultural assets, fisheries, and water resources (Nordhaus 2000).


However, the National Research Council panel urged the adoption of a more ambitious approach, in which a comprehensive set of near-market and non-market accounts would be developed. In addition to the environmental arena, significant extensions would include the value of home production and unpaid work, the value of research and development capital, the value of non-market time, and the value of informal and home education. This work was motivated by the idea that expanding accounting boundaries would provide a better estimate of the size, distribution, and growth of economic activity and economic welfare. The panel’s central recommendation was that Congress should authorize and fund the BEA to recommence its work on developing natural-resource and environmental accounts and that it should be encouraged to develop a comprehensive set of near-market and nonmarket accounts (Nordhaus and Kokkelenberg 1999). Congress did not follow the National Research Council’s advice and there are no categories for natural capital or ecosystem services in the BEA’s 2015 mandate (BEA 2015).


Scientists and economists, are applying Natural Capital Accounting methodologies using federal data in an effort to promoting the establishment of natural capital accounting standards and methodologies by the central accounting system in the US national government (Fenichel et al. 2016; Muller et al. 2011). There is increasing interest in reorganizing data already collected by US federal agencies


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into an accounting framework as suggested in the SEEA which would provide greater comparability. In the meantime, natural capital accounting and ecosystem service approaches are widely used in federal agencies and efforts are underway to increase their value for decision making (Obama 2015). In 2015 the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America published a special issue to celebrate its centennial: Nature as Capital PNAS 100th Anniversary Special Feature (Guerry et al. 2015).


In the US, many parties including universities, non- governmental


organizations and federal agencies are


actively collaborating to develop and apply ecosystem service concepts. These efforts advance natural capital accounting at a national scale to achieve environmental and economic objectives. Numerous federal agencies have incorporated these concepts into land-use planning, water- resource management and climate change adaptation (Bagstad et al. 2014 Bagstad et al. 2013) Well-defined policy direction is needed to institutionalize ecosystem services approaches across federal agencies, and guide inter-sectoral and interdisciplinary collaborative research and implementation. In addition, the community of practice needs next generation decision support tools for the practical application of ecosystem service principles in policymaking and in commerce. These communities also need better performance metrics, as well as tools to monitor ecosystem service status and assess the environmental and economic impacts of policies and programmes (Schaefer et al. 2015).


Natural capital accounting in Canada


Statistics Canada (StatsCan) has introduced an environment and resource category into its National Economic Accounting practice, called the Canadian System of Environmental and Resource Accounts. Some data sets were initiated in the 1960s. The introductory material state that the category was collated was because the information existed and only needed to be collected to present as a whole. But the most important reason was that the statistical agencies in different ministries wanted to address long-standing environmental criticisms of the national accounts. The criticisms included


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