Lessons learned from development of natural capital accounts in the United States and European Union

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Oct 09, 2021
Kenneth J.Bagstad, Jane Carter Ingram, Carl D. Shapiro, Alessandra La Notte, Joachim Maes, Sara Vallecillo, C. Frank Casey, Pierre D. Glynne, Mehdi P. Heris, Justin A. Johnson, Chris Lauer, John Matuszak, Kirsten L.L. Oleson, Stephen M. Posner, et al.



The United States and European Union (EU) face common challenges in managing natural capital and balancing conservation and resource use with consumption of other forms of capital. This paper synthesizes findings from 11 individual application papers from a special issue of Ecosystem Services on natural capital accounting (NCA) and their application to the public and private sectors in the EU and U.S. NCA is inherently a data-integration centered exercise, aiming to draw new insights by realigning environmental and economic data into a consistent framework. Drawing primarily on papers from the special issue and other key NCA literature, we identify lessons learned and gaps remaining for NCA’s development and application to decision making. In doing so, we identify eight key similarities and three major differences in NCA development, status, and application between the U.S. and EU. NCA can be highly policy relevant: special issue papers address critical issues including agriculture, water, conservation/land-use planning, climate, and corporate decision making. In both the U.S. and EU, further application is needed to drive demand for the accounts’ production. Based on these experiences, the U.S. and EU can be important leaders in cross-sector, international collaboration toward next-generation environmental economic accounts that advance global NCA practice.

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