Initial Concepts

 NATURAL CAPITAL

Natural Capital is the set of assets consisting of renewable and non-renewable natural resources (for example, air, water, soil, flora, fauna, genetic information, landscape, etc.) that combine to produce a flow of benefits for ecosystems, urban life and people.

Some natural capital assets provide people with goods and services, often called eco-systemic services, such as water generation, erosion control, and pollination of crops by insects, which in turn guarantees viability. Long term of other natural resources.

It is an extension of the economic notion of capital (resources that allow the production of more resources) to goods and services provided by the natural environment.

Given that the continuous supply of these services depends on eco-systemic balances, the structure and diversity of habitats and ecosystems give rise to important natural capital assets.

 

NATURAL CAPITAL ACCOUNTING

In general, natural capital accounting is the process of calculating the total stocks of natural capital in a given ecosystem or region. This process can be used to inform decision-making by government, businesses and consumers since each relates to the use or consumption of capital and sustainable behavior. There are a number of global initiatives to support the development of natural capital accounting. These include, for example:

-The System of Environmental and Economic Accounting (SCAE) that can be integrated with the System of National Accounts of the United Nations. The SCAE now has a guide on the experimental accounting of biodiversity.

-The Equity and Ecosystem Accounting Society Services (WAVES) is a global association led by the World Bank. Its objective is to promote sustainable development by ensuring that natural resources are integrated into development planning and national economic accounts.

The accounting of natural capital is not only gaining traction in the government but also in business and industry.

 

Corporate Natural Capital Accounting

Corporate natural capital accounts aim to document the ownership, responsibility and assets of an organization related to the natural capital involved in its operations in the same way that an organization records more conventional assets in its balance sheet.

In July 2016, the Natural Capital Coalition launched the Natural Capital Protocol to help companies account for natural capital, establishing methodologies to that effect.

To address this, our firm in cooperation with several international organizations analyzes the various methodologies to account for natural capital, such as: https://www.cisl.cam.ac.uk/publications/publication-pdfs/biodiversity-and -ecosystem-services-in-corporate-natural-capital-accounting-synthesis-report.

Our firm also participates constantly in the corresponding international forums, and also develops the Coalition of Natural Capital of Chile, which aims to generate cooperation links with platforms for valuation, certification and commercialization of natural capital.

 

THE ECO-SYSTEMIC SERVICES

The “ecosystem approach”[1] emerged as a topic of discussion in the late 1980s and early 1990s between research and policy communities related to the management of biodiversity and natural resources[2]. People argued that a new approach was needed to achieve sound and sustainable management results and policies. It was suggested that an ecosystem-based approach would provide more integrated policy and management at the landscape level and would be more strongly oriented towards human well-being[3].

The concept of “ecosystem services” is also specifically covered by the principles underlying the ecosystem approach established in the CBD.

Ecosystem services are usually defined in very simple terms, such as “the benefits provided by ecosystems”[4]

Like the term ecosystem itself, the concept of ecosystem services is relatively recent, it was used for the first time in the late 1960s[5]. Research on ecosystem services has grown dramatically in the last decade[6].

The 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) [7], was the first global assessment of ecosystems and ecosystem services.

It is a common practice in economics to refer to goods and services separately as to include the two concepts under the term services. Although cultural goods, services and services are often treated separately to facilitate their understanding, the MA considers all these benefits as ecosystem services, since it is sometimes difficult to determine whether a benefit provided by an ecosystem is a good or a service. In addition, when people refer to ecosystem goods and services, cultural values ​​and other intangible benefits are sometimes forgotten.

Eco-systemic services have been categorized in different ways[8] and different critical positions have been presented[9] [10].

Wallace[11] has pointed out that the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005[12] (MA) and the broader research literature are ambiguous about how to distinguish between the mechanisms by which services are generated (called by some ‘ ecosystem functions) and the services themselves.

There is a need to clearly specify what the reference is in each case, particularly in a new field like this, where concepts are developing rapidly.

Fisher and Turner prefer to think about services and intermediate and final products, instead of getting caught up in arguments about what is and is not a service[13]. This can be considered a more integrated approach, because in many cases the direct contribution of biodiversity to human well-being is only part of a much broader system that can include long-term economic, social and ecological elements[14].

For operational purposes, the MA proposes a typology of four general types of services, namely: those that cover the provision material or services; Those that cover the way in which ecosystems regulate other means or environmental processes;

Those related to the cultural or spiritual needs of the people; and finally the support services that support the other three types.

Typology of Eco-Systemic Services

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment of 2005 (MA)[15]

It is important to examine these services in detail, because as we will see, they show concrete ways in which ecosystems relate to society.

First Type: Provisioning Services

These include, among others, food items, food additives, water, oils, fuels, genetic resources, biochemicals, biocides, medicines, wood, construction materials, etc.

Second Type: Regulation Services

These are the benefits obtained from the regulation of ecosystem processes, including: generation of oxygen, maintenance of air quality, water generation, water regulation, water purification, waste treatment, climate regulation, biological control-diseases and diseases-,, Protection against storms, etc.

Third Type: Cultural Services

These are the non-material or intangible benefits that people obtain from ecosystems through spiritual enrichment, cognitive development, reflection, recreation and aesthetic experiences, including: cultural diversity, community values, spiritual and religious values, educational values ​​and knowledge systems traditional and formal -, aesthetic values, social relations, sense of place, sense of time, inspiration, values ​​of cultural heritage, cultural landscapes, recreation, ecotourism, etc.

The MA emphasizes that “cultural services” are closely linked to human values ​​and behavior, as well as human institutions and patterns of social, economic and political organization.

Fourth Type: Support Services

According to the MA, support services are those that “are necessary for the production of all other ecosystem services”. They differ from provisioning, regulation and cultural services, since their impacts on people are indirect or occur for a long time, while changes in the other categories have relatively direct and short-term impacts on people. For example, human beings do not directly use soil formation services, although changes in this would indirectly affect people through the impact on the food production supply service. In the same way, climate regulation is categorized as a regulatory service since changes in ecosystems can have an impact on the local or global climate along the time scales relevant to human decision making (decades or centuries), while the production of gaseous oxygen (through photosynthesis). A support service since any impact on the concentration of oxygen in the atmosphere would only occur for an extremely long time. Other examples of support services are primary production, atmospheric oxygen production, soil formation and retention, nutrient cycling, water recycling and habitat provisioning.

 


[1] Ubilla, Jaime (2016). Reflexive Law and Reflexive Property Rights, Tackling the Regulatory Trilemma of Ecosystems Conservation, PhD Thesis registered with and available at the Library of the University of Edinburgh, Ch.3..

[2] Hartje, Klaphake, and Schliep (2003), pp.12.

[3] Haines-Young and Potschin (2010), pp. 110-139.

[4] “Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005. Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Synthesis. World Resources Institute” (2005), pp.1.

[5] Helliwell (1969), pp. 41–49.

[6] De Groot, Wilson, and Boumans (2002), pp. 393–408; Costanza et al. (1997); Burkhard et al. (2012), pp. 17–29.

[7] “Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005. Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Synthesis. World Resources Institute.”

[8] Costanza (2008), pp. 350–52.

[9] Wallace (2008), pp. 353–54.

[10] Fisher, Turner, and Morling (2009): 643–53.

[11] Wallace (2008).

[12] “Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005. Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Synthesis. World Resources Institute.”

[13] Fisher, Turner, and Morling (2009), pp. 643–53.

[14] Haines-Young and Potschin (2010), pp.1.

[15] “Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005. Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Synthesis. World Resources Institute.”