Determining and accounting for the monetary value of ecosystems, biodiversity and ecosystem services and factoring them into the calculus of business decision-making is a very tall order. Yet, that's precisely what's necessary if humanity is to avoid environmental catastrophes of unprecedented scope and scale over the course of the 21st century, according to proponents of “natural capital,” nearly 500 of whom from 35 countries gathered in Edinburgh November 21-22 for the inaugural World Forum on Natural Capital.
World Forum host government Scotland wasn't reticent about lending support and providing leadership to the Natural Capital movement. During the World Forum's opening day, First Minister Alex Salmond announced the launch of the Scottish Forum on Natural Capital, a public-private partnership dedicated to charting a course for ongoing development and adoption of the natural capital framework and methodologies throughout Scottish society.
A new framework for socioeconomic development
Five founding partners are throwing their weight behind the cross-sectoral initiative: The Scottish Wildlife Trust, Scotland's 2020 Climate Group, the University of Edinburgh, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Scotland (ICAS) and the Institute of Directors.
“During the Year of Natural Scotland, I am delighted to welcome delegates from over 35 countries to Edinburgh for the inaugural World Forum on Natural Capital,” the First Minister was quoted in a press release.
“This is the first major global conference to discuss the challenge of ‘valuing’ and conserving our natural resources: our high quality water, land and air. I hope this event becomes a regular fixture and that Scotland, a country with a rich and diverse natural environment, will continue to play a pivotal role.
The new Scottish Forum on Natural Capital, the First Minister explained, “will bring together public, private and voluntary sectors to help protect and rebuild Scotland’s natural capital. It will also offer leadership in the hope of increasing action both in Scotland and beyond.”Peatlands and beyond
The restoration, conservation and sustainable use of Scotland's peatlands will be “an early focus for the Scottish Forum,” he continued, “which is especially fitting since they form a substantial part of the Scottish landscape and are widely recognized as important in climate change mitigation, biodiversity and water quality. The Scottish Government has long acknowledged the benefits of peatland restoration and is making every effort to conserve this vital and valuable resource.”
Scottish Wildlife Trust chairman Simon Mine drew attention to the value and socioeconomic foundation ecosystems provide. Scotland's natural assets provide services and products worth between an estimated £21.5 ($34 billion) to £23 billion ($37.25 billion) per year to Scotland’s economy.
“The value of Scotland’s natural assets to sectors like tourism, food and drink, and to society as a whole is huge. Without a better appreciation of this value we cannot properly track the damage that we are doing to our natural assets, nor can we properly incorporate this value into decision making,” Mine highlightedA strategic vision based on Natural Capital
The inclusive nature of the Scottish Forum on Natural Capital's initiative to conserve and make sustainable use of its ecosystems and natural resources is elaborated in its strategic vision:
“Only by creating an economic environment that recognizes the value of the services provided to us by nature will businesses and other interested parties be able to make the informed decisions that will lead them to invest in preserving and improving Scotland’s natural environment.”
“We hope that the Scottish Forum will provide a blueprint to other countries of how they can encourage collaboration to find new ways to protect and enhance the natural environment, to the benefit of their people and their economies,” he stated.
“There is no reason why England and Wales should not be taking this just as seriously as every country has as much a financial stake in their natural assets as Scotland has."
An experienced, independent journalist, editor and researcher, Andrew has crisscrossed the globe while reporting on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social and environmental entrepreneurship, renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology. He studied geology at CU, Boulder, has an MBA in finance from Pace University, and completed a certificate program in international governance for biodiversity at UN University in Japan.