When was it released: September 3, 2015
By whom: Jacob Salcone, IUCN
This is where conservation organizations need to step up to the plate. Ecosystem service valuation and natural capital accounting are still mostly locked in the ivory tower, academically mature but not yet mainstreamed into national planning and policy making. Conservation organizations need to partner with national planners and even private sector developers and entrepreneurs to bring the natural capital initiatives into practice.
Of course limitations of this approach should be acknowledged. Not every ecosystem or species has quantifiable benefits, and if ecosystem services cannot be quantified, then it is difficult to integrate them into the national accounting framework. Conservation organizations should not rely on natural capital alone to save the environment. Furthermore, arguments for ecological connectivity, using the precautionary principle when ecosystem services are unknown, and even bio-centric intrinsic value arguments have had successes in designating protected areas and changing policy, despite no clear link to human well-being. To address the full breadth of environmental harms that threaten global sustainability, a range of approaches will be necessary. Natural capital accounting is just one approach, but it is one that has transformative potential.
Conservation organizations should recognize that countries will continue to work to improve the livelihoods of their residents and grow GDP. Conservation organizations should be willing to treat nature as natural capital because it transforms this paradigm and institutionalizes sustainability. Natural capital accounting alone cannot save every species, but it is a powerful tool that conservation organizations need to embrace.