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Towards natural capital accounting in the Netherlands

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5 Jan 2018 Read the full UN Environment Program article here

By Joop van Bodegraven, policy adviser on nature conservation for the Netherlands Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality

….Only 14 per cent of the land in the Netherlands is covered in natural or semi-natural vegetation or forests; little is left of the region’s original biodiversity. The practices of Dutch companies and the consumption patterns of Dutch consumers are also putting a heavy burden on land resources in other countries around the world.

To reverse this development, the Dutch government and partners are making considerable efforts to conserve high-value biodiversity and natural landscapes, which provide society with many services. Policies are promoting nature-inclusive land use and nature-based solutions to meet people’s needs and halt biodiversity loss…

….a transition is needed towards a future where companies, government officials and other stakeholders more accurately measure their dependence and impact on natural capital. This will help create a more sustainable society.

…Since 2014 the government has been investing in:

  • International cooperation and standardization, working alongside the Natural Capital Coalition, the World Bank, IUCN, and the European Union’s Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems as well as their Services working group
  • Setting up coalitions of companies to speed up the deployment of natural capital accounting in certain economic sectors. Part of the approach is creating community platforms on natural capital, where challenges and experiences are shared and matched.
  • Further development of data and tools for businesses (especially small and medium-sized enterprises)
  • Tools, knowledge and guidance to integrate natural capital accounting in policy-related issues, like National Natural Capital Accounts, NCA guidance in societal cost-benefit analysis, and criteria for sustainable procurement.                             

Building on two local pilots and a pilot for the province South-Limburg, Statistics Netherlands (CBS) and Wageningen University started a project in 2016 to develop a system of National Natural Capital Accounts, following the guidelines of the UN System of Environmental Economic Accounts – Experimental Ecosystem Accounting…

The project is looking primarily at the ecosystems part of natural capital: woodland, heathland, but also ecosystems in agricultural and built-up areas. High resolution Land Cover Ecosystem Unit (LCEU) maps have been developed, as have tables for the physical supply and use of 15 or more ecosystem services.

One output was the recent publication of a full carbon account. Further work in 2018 aims to finish accounts for the supply and use of ecosystem services, and for the state of ecosystems and biodiversity….

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