Environmental accounting leads to stronger ecosystems

If you want to manage it, measure it.

A recently published article by scientists working across Australia and Antarctica describes 19 ecosystems that are close to collapse, including the waterways of the Murray-Darling Basin, mangroves in the Gulf of the Carpentaria and the Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia. The dire states of these ecosystems are caused by a multitude of pressures such as changes in temperature due to climate change, habitat loss and invasive species. Urgent action is needed to prevent irreversible losses. The article’s authors recommend the following actions to avoid such an eventuality:

  • Awareness – acknowledge the value of ecosystems and recognise where biodiversity and ecosystem services need protection,
  • Anticipation – identify the risks of current and future pressures adversely affecting ecosystems, and recognise potential fragile states of ecosystems,
  • Action – reduce pressures by pragmatic interventions at the regional or local (community) level.

The first of these actions, awareness, is critical. For awareness to inform anticipation of risks and subsequent actions, it should be built on a foundation of science and data. An environmental accounting system can provide such a foundation.

The declining state of ecosystems inspired the development of the Accounting for Nature® (AfN) framework. The AfN framework has been developed by the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists over ten years to provide a transparent, scientifically robust process for measuring and tracking the condition of environmental assets. Environmental assets can include forests, rivers, soils and native vegetation. The framework is consistent with international standards such as the United Nation’s Standard for Environmental Economic Accounting (SEEA) and complements other standards and certification systems.

The AfN framework distils the complexity of environmental accounting, without losing scientific rigour, into an easy-to-understand metric: the ‘Environmental Condition Index’ or ‘Econd™’. The Econd™ is an index between 0 and 100 that expresses the condition of the asset relative to its undegraded state, with 100 representing an environmental asset in a completely undegraded state.

The AfN framework can be used by landholders, government, carbon project developers and private sector investors to certify their environmental accounts. An independently audited or verified account can help project proponents demonstrate their project’s positive credentials. Examples of AfN registered projects can be found here.

Point Advisory believes the AfN framework has the potential to significantly bolster decision makers’ awareness of the health of environmental assets. This can help in the anticipation of risks and subsequent ecosystem management. It can also inform policy making and economic decisions.

For these reasons, three of Point Advisory’s staff (Ben Sichlau, Charlie Knaggs and Simon Dawes) have become AfN Category 3 accredited experts. Category 3 experts are experienced auditors who possess the skills to audit and assure the rigour and accuracy of certified Environmental Accounts. For more information, feel free to contact us.