Nations urged to estimate ‘natural capital’ for green accounting purposes


By Malaka Rodrigo, reporting from Rio de Janeiro

Environment protection is an investment, say participants at the World Earth Summit Rio + 20.
Since Monday last week, environment activists and groups, including lawmakers, have been converging on Rio de Janairo, Brazil, for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

The summit marks the 20th anniversary of the 1992 Earth Summit, held in the same city. Hence the name Rio + 20.

Since Last Monday lawmakers, have been converging on Rio de Janairo to
attend the GLOBE summit

The historic ’92 event was attended by 172 governments, including 108 heads of state. Some 130 heads of state are expected at this week’s Rio+20, including Sri Lanka President, Mahinda Rajapaksa. The UN says up to 60,000 participants will be involved in what is projected as the world’s biggest environment event.

Sri Lanka will be represented by some 35 delegates from various Ministries. In addition to the Presidential team, non-state environment organisations and youth groups are participating. The total number of Sri Lankans participating could exceed 75.

Heads of state will be in Rio during the three days from June 20 and 22, leading up to the RIO+20 main programme. Meanwhile, related side events are taking place in different parts of the beautiful of city of Rio. One is the World Summit of Legislators, or GLOBE conference, which is under way at the Tiradentes Palace. This summit is dedicated to reviewing, formulating and enforcing laws to protect the world environment. For example, the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) was signed by different countries, including Sri Lanka, in the 1970s, but the laws still remain inadequate. The three-day summit will be a forum for establishing a mechanism to expedite the passing of laws at national level.

The GLOBE summit is focused on “green accounting” and estimating “natural capital”. Natural Capital is the sum of natural resources needed to sustain a community. Accounting for natural capital has proved to result in better, environment-sensitive decision-making by governments. For example, a government set on turning a forest into farmland should know that cutting down forests leads to watershed losses, and the resulting water shortages could make the farmland unsustainable in the long run. In green accounting, natural capital is factored into discussions on national spending.

On the second day of the GLOBE summit, speaker Dr. Glenn-Marie Lange pointed out that natural capital accounts, like the GDP (gross domestic product), do not always capture the value of natural assets in the economic environment. This was the reason for creating a new accounting system, the UN System of Environmental and Economic Accounting (SEEA). The accounting systems are still being developed. Meanwhile, countries like Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Australia are already balancing Green National Accounts.

Published on 17.06.2012

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