The cost of natural capital consumption: Accounting for a sustainable world economy
The System for integrated Environmental and Economic Accounting (SEEA) has been criticized in this journal for ignoring the benefits of ecosystem services for human well-being. This paper argues that extended national accounts should not attempt measuring economic welfare. Rather, they could and should assess the environmental sustainability of economic activity as the cost of natural capital consumption. The global application of SEEA concepts and methods demonstrates the feasibility of international green accounting. For the world economy, sustainability costs run to about 3trillion US$ or 6% of world GDP. Large variations at national and regional levels suggest that conventional economic indicators may significantly overstate economic progress in some parts of the world. Data gaps and lack of data comparability affect these first estimates. National and international statistical services should be more aggressive in greening the national accounts. More prudent and more sustainable economic policies might be the result.
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- Bringezu, Stefan & Schutz, Helmut & Steger, Soren & Baudisch, Jan, 2004. "International comparison of resource use and its relation to economic growth: The development of total material requirement, direct material inputs and hidden flows and the structure of TMR," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(1-2), pages 97-124, November.
- Bartelmus, Peter, 2003. "Dematerialization and capital maintenance: two sides of the sustainability coin," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 61-81, August.
- Bartelmus, Peter, 2007. "SEEA-2003: Accounting for sustainable development?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(4), pages 613-616, March.
- Boyd, James, 2007. "Nonmarket benefits of nature: What should be counted in green GDP?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(4), pages 716-723, March.
- Walker, B.H. & Pearson, L., 2007. "A resilience perspective of the SEEA," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(4), pages 708-715, March.
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