From the desk of Johanna, Executive Manager Engagement.   

Our dependence on nature is undeniable. It sustains our economies, livelihoods, and overall wellbeing. However, nature’s value is often overlooked and not adequately accounted for in financial systems. Natural capital accounting (NCA) has emerged as a powerful tool to quantify and incorporate the economic and ecological contributions of nature into national policy and decision-making frameworks. In Australia, a country known for its rich biodiversity and unique ecosystems, the adoption of NCA is proving to be a pivotal step towards sustainable development and responsible resource management. 

Natural capital refers to the renewable and non-renewable natural resources that provide essential benefits to humans and ecosystems. NCA involves quantifying and valuing these resources, such as forests, minerals, water bodies, and biodiversity, in economic terms. By attaching a monetary value to natural assets, NCA enhances our understanding of the true worth of these resources beyond their aesthetics. 

Estimates for the amount of funding needed to halt biodiversity loss across the world range between $722 billion and $967 billion per year. In 2019, however, the total global flow of funds towards biodiversity protection amounted to approximately $124-143 billion annually. This biodiversity financing gap cannot be filled by public funds alone. Businesses have a key role to play, requiring a large-scale shift away from a generally extractive business-as-usual way of operating to one that is planet, and people, positive. 

South Coast NRM has embarked on a bold initiative to develop Western Australia’s first regional natural capital account. This initiative underpins South Coast NRM’s strategic vision to drive a framework for our economy to value and support nature. South Coast NRM views natural capital accounting as an opportunity to elevate the intrinsic value of nature, enhance impact reporting and build confidence for greater and longer-term investments to protect and restore nature. South Coast NRM is committed to ensuring Aboriginal organisations and the regional community are leading, and are beneficiaries, of this opportunity.  

The South Coast region’s diverse landscape offers a range of ecosystem services that contribute to the economy and community wellbeing. By acknowledging the economic value of these services, we can make informed decisions that strike a balance between development and preservation. 

Together with our partners, including government, Aboriginal Corporations, First Nations Peoples, community, and industry, we know we need to do more, and be better, at protecting and restoring nature and measuring our collective impact. Implementing NCA comes with challenges, including data gaps, methodological complexities, and the need for consistent valuation standards. South Coast NRM is stepping up to this challenge. 

First steps in the development of a natural capital account for the South Coast region are underway. To understand how the region can progress towards this vision, South Coast NRM has engaged with global leaders in natural capital accounting to develop a roadmap. South Coast NRM is working with IDEEA Group who played a significant role in building the globally recognised System of Environmental Economic Accounting framework, adopted by the United Nations. The roadmap will be developed over the coming months and will detail how a natural capital approach can be delivered successfully across the South Coast region. 

Natural capital accounting is not just a theoretical concept but a practical tool with immense potential to help us better understand our regions ecological health and to better fund restoration and improve the way we care for nature. In a region as ecologically diverse as the South Coast, it is hoped natural capital accounting will foster a deeper understanding of the intricate connections between the economy, society, and the environment. By valuing natural resources beyond their immediate utility, we can make informed decisions that ensure sustainable growth while preserving unique landscapes and biodiversity for future generations.

Find out more in the South Coast NRM natural capital accounting investment concept: Nurturing Nature, Enriching Futures.