1st – 6th July 2019
Mauritius

Jean-Louis Weber

International Consultant

Biography

Background:

• National Accounting (at INSEE, the French National Statistical Institute)

• Economic-Environmental Accounting (at the French Ministry of Environment)

• Ecosystem Capital Accounting and Spatial Analysis (at the European Environment Agency)

Generalist competencies:

• National accounting and economic statistics

• Environment statistics

• Economic-environmental accounting/ Ecosystem natural capital accounting

• Geographical analysis /Geographical information systems

• Earth observation by satellite

• International affairs

Specialist competencies:

• Methodologies, statistical frameworks

• Implementation of environmental information systems

Keynote Abstract

Towards Ecological Stewardship Based on Ecosystem Natural Capital Accounting

Our neglect of the natural systems that directly and indirectly provide for our livelihoods results in the depletion of material resources and in the alteration of the ecosystem functions that permit their renewal, and consequently, of our life on Earth. This finding is renewed year after year, through warnings from the IPCC on climate, from the Global Footprint Network on the inexorable progress of the day of surpassing the maximum use of natural resources and from the WWF and IUCN on the collapse of biodiversity. But few consequences are drawn from these observations and the usual policies’ “small steps” finally hide the magnitude of the challenge that we face.

The ignorance of ecosystem degradation is largely due to the fact that it escapes the economic calculation on which most decisions are made. In fact, while material natural resources are appropriable and exploitable as economic assets and therefore accounted for, the reproductive functions of the natural systems that provide them are public goods. These functions are considered as “externalities” by the standard economic theory and are not recorded in accounting books in so far as their degradation doesn’t generate costs for the owner. Yet there is a cost regarding ecosystem functions as public goods, from which by definition no one can be denied access.

The unfair side of the “predatory” behavior of “free riders of the common good” not paying their dues is frequently denounced. Beyond environmental legislation that tries to prevent nature’s degradation through regulatory measures and taxes, other policies based on economic instruments have emerged, with more or less success. Not only governments, science and NGOs are concerned with climate and biodiversity degradation, business as well and noticeably finance which understand that environmental impacts are serious risk factors to consider in investment decisions. Discussions are now on the appropriate metrics needed for addressing biodiversity issues on par with climate change budgets and accounts.

The Ecosystem Natural Capital Accounting – Quick Start Package (ENCA-QSP) published by the UN CBD in 2014 is an enlargement of the UN System of Economic-Environmental Accounting, of indicators frameworks that focus on the measurement of ecosystem services as well as of the “carbon” accounts on which are based UNFCCC mechanisms. The ENCA methodology is an accounting framework which addresses all ecosystems (inland as well marine and the atmosphere systems) and being based on spatially explicit data and statistics can be implemented at any scale, by socio-ecological geographical units as well as for countries, local governments, and enterprises.

ENCA allows calculating the natural capital depreciation and compiling ecological balance sheets which will modify the economic decision criteria by disclosing hidden costs ecological debts. Ecosystem capital degradation is an unpaid cost of which the counterpart is ecological debts. These debts remain virtual as long as they are not measured and recorded in order to be offset. Accumulation of debts, however, is a risk that can manifest itself in slow or brutal catastrophic crises of technological, climatic, ecosystem or/and financial nature.

ENCA is a structured framework that uses a standard metrics to measure ecological value and ecosystem degradation. The rapid development of scientific knowledge, data acquisition, and information processing technologies makes the implementation of ecosystem accounting possible now.