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Today's date: July 23, 2014

Natural Capital Forum to Assess Value of Irish Environment

News feed for Trinity College Dublin.

May 09, 2014

A Natural Capital Forum (NCF) for Ireland will be established to advance a comprehensive economic assessment of the whole range of resources, goods and services produced by the Irish environment.

The development of the NCF comes after a recent conference, chaired by Dr Jane Stout, Director of the Trinity Centre for Biodiversity Research and Associate Professor in Botany at Trinity College Dublin, engaged key stakeholders in discussion about the importance of accurately valuing the services our environment provides.

The independent organising committee comprised Dr Stout, Paddy Woodworth (author and journalist), Dr Declan Little (Woodlands of Ireland), Dr Catherine Farrell (Bord na Mona), Dr Matthew Jebb (National Botanic Gardens), and Dr Cara Augustenborg (Impact Research Management). Additionally, the conference was supported by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (DAHG), Environmental Protection Agency, Bord na Mona, Forest Service, Environmental Sciences Association of Ireland, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin City Council, and the National Botanic Gardens.

Dr Stout said: “There was an overwhelmingly positive response to the meeting from government agencies, economists, scientists, bankers and other stakeholders. There’s real momentum to progress this issue in Ireland, which has been welcomed by the World Forum on Natural Capital. By recognizing the value of nature, we can justify taking steps to protect it, which is to everyone’s benefit.”

More than 100 representatives of State agencies, businesses, investors, landowners, environmental NGOs and academics attended the Natural Capital: Ireland’s Hidden Wealthconference at the National Botanic Gardens. The conference focused on finding ways to accurately measure, in economic terms, our ‘natural capital debt’, which is the currently unacknowledged cost of environmental degradation and its impact on human wellbeing. Also considered was the potential of restoration strategies to enhance and augment our natural capital, reversing the long, continuous trend of degradation in recent times.

The meeting was addressed by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan, who said that during Ireland’s economic crisis we had lost our focus on biodiversity, and that this had been to our detriment. He welcomed the conference’s contribution to highlighting the economic and social value of the goods and services provided by nature.  

After contributions from international and national experts in the field, the conference unanimously endorsed a proposal to establish a national Natural Capital Forum, which will be set up with the support of public and private agencies. EU member states have agreed to integrate Natural Capital Accounting into their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) calculations by 2020, and the Forum will assist in meeting this goal.

The major points raised at the conference included:

  • Comprehensive Natural Capital Accounting (NCA) has the potential to reveal the hidden wealth in our natural environment, ranging from the provision of flood control, fresh air and fertile land to health, recreational and aesthetic benefits.
  • NCA can therefore better inform our policies, public and private, so that we can more effectively protect, promote, enhance and restore healthy ecosystems and the human wellbeing that depends on them. NCA expands our understanding of nature’s true value and reminds us that the health of our economy and society is directly dependent on healthy ecosystems.
  • An independent natural capital forum should be established with two aims:
  1. To mainstream the concepts of NCA and ecosystem goods and services to the general public, commercial enterprises, landowners and public decision-makers
  2. Assist state agencies, private businesses and landowners in developing sound metrics for NCA.

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| sharon.campbell@tcd.ie | Last updated: May 9, 2014