Accounting for Nature
A significant milestone in environmental accounting
On the 25th November 2016, the Wentworth Group made a joint presentation to the Meeting of Commonwealth, State and Territory Environment Ministers with the Australian Bureau of Statistics and NRM Regions Australia. Following this presentation, the Ministers agreed to work together to develop a common national approach to environmental accounts in 2017.
The Ministerial Communique stated “this important work will ensure accurate and reliable information is available to governments, communities and business to better understand the condition of the environment and make better decisions. It will improve the ability to track outcomes in specific locations and across state and territory boundaries, and demonstrate the value of the environment to our standard of living.”
The Wentworth Group and NRM Regions Australia have completed a 5 year regional environmental accounting trial in Australia. The trial generated a wealth of support across regional Australia, with over 200 experts from the scientific community, State and Commonwealth government agencies including ABS, CSIRO and BoM.
Accounting for Nature 2016 builds on the experience from the trial and our involvement in the development of the international System of Environmental Economic Accounts. It describes:
- the policy context – why do we need to do this;
- the method that was developed from the practical experience of the trial; and
- how these environmental accounts can then be used by government to guide public investments.
A pre-publication draft of the revised Accounting for Nature 2016 is now available and will be published once the graphics and referencing is completed.
The Wentworth Group gratefully acknowledges the support and dedication of many scientists, economists and statisticians within Commonwealth and State agencies, staff and chairs of NRM Regions Australia, and other research and policy institutions in Australia, and internationally. In particular, we thank those who contributed to the regional Australian trial between 2011 and 2015 (listed in the appendix to the report). We also thank the Purves Environmental Fund and The Ian Potter Foundation for their ongoing personal and financial support.
Australian Regional Environmental Accounts Trial
The health of the natural environment matters because it affects the wellbeing of people directly, and because it underpins other things that people value: healthy river systems, productive soils, sustainable fisheries, and the conservation of nature and our unique and priceless biological diversity.
In 2008, the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists and other experts in science, economics, statistics and public policy, developed the Accounting for Nature model. This model places scientific information about the condition of our environment into an accounting framework, which allows the community and our policy makers to better understand complex scientific information, evaluate and set measurable policy targets, estimate the cost of meeting those targets, identify the most cost-effective investment decisions, and then monitor the success of these investments over time.
Over the past four years, Australia’s Regional Natural Resource Management authorities, in cooperation with scientists, economists and statisticians in universities, Commonwealth and State government agencies, have conducted a continental scale trial to test the practical application of this Accounting for Nature model. Ten NRM regions compiled regional accounts using the asset condition accounting method described in the Quick Guide (2013). This method used a common unit of measure, the Econd, to quantify the condition of environmental assets. Accounts produced during the trial were developed for assets within land, freshwater, coastal and marine environments.
Ten NRM regions participated in the Australian Regional Environmental Accounts Trial.
The Wentworth Group secretariat, guided by the Scientific Standards and Accreditation Committee and supported by The Ian Potter Foundation and NRM Regions Australia, have now completed its extensive scientific review of the accounts. The Evaluation of the Australian Regional Environmental Accounts Trial provides a summary of the findings of the trial. A detailed analysis of the accounts and approaches to the accounts can be found in the Technical Analysis of the Australian Regional Environmental Accounts Trial.
The accounts and the many other products which have been produced throughout this trial, have become reality through the combination of the best available science with the practical real world experience of professionals across Australia. While there are still questions to be resolved, we now know that it is practical and feasible to create robust asset condition accounts at a regional scale, which in turn inform the development of national environmental accounts.
The Wentworth Group’s work on environmental accounts is funded in partnership with The Ian Potter Foundation.