The Natural Capital Roadmap presents the ideas of over 300 leaders in farming, forestry, natural resource management, conservation, finance, policy, research and government on how to progress the natural capital agenda in Australia.
Australian farmers contribute not only healthy food for our population, but also a valuable export market worth $44.3 billion. Land managers and food producers are facing pressure from a global population increase and a change in the way we eat. Meat consumption within Australia increases by less than half a per cent annually, but as an exporter to developing and emerging economies, we feel the pressure of a three per cent annual increase from these countries. Despite increasing demand, competing demands could reduce the amount of land available for food production. At the same time, climate change is beginning to have implications on the ground, with an increase in unpredictable weather patterns and competition for water.
Our natural resources are an asset. They enable us to feed our population, run successful export and timber industries, develop bioenergy options and provide space for both urban and industrial development. However, the systems in place for measuring and valuing this asset are immature. The concept of ‘natural capital’ positions our environment alongside other forms of economic management, such as finance. It envisions the creation of systems to assign a value to our natural resources, informing decisions for industry, investors and government. This approach would provide a more consistent approach to measuring natural capital at all scales, and a better picture of how our environment contributes to economic and human activity.
In a practical example of how natural capital measurement can enable shifts in attitudes and practices, research from ANU used natural capital accounting to demonstrate that farmers can maintain profits whilst maintaining and enhancing both biodiversity and natural capital. Interestingly, the study also found mental health benefits associated with improved natural capital on farms.
It is important to note that measurement and valuation of natural capital is one ‘necessary but insufficient’ enabler of the systemic changes needed in food and land use, and should not slow the implementation of other enablers including capacity building, development of incentives and investment, research and innovation and long-term policy and industry planning. In October 2019 Climateworks published the Natural Capital Roadmap, presenting the ideas of over 300 leaders in farming, forestry, natural resource management, conservation, finance, policy, research and government on how to progress the natural capital agenda in Australia.
The Roadmap is intended to support the acceleration, expansion, alignment, coordination, resourcing and implementation of organisations working on natural capital, and of existing and emerging natural capital initiatives.
Climateworks Australia will seek to track implementation progress and build momentum for projects aligned with the Roadmap.