The Value of Natural Capital in Pocket Size

The latest edition of The Little Green Data Book provides comprehensive data on more than 200 countries’ natural capital, including agricultural land, forests, protected areas, water resources, and for the first time oceans.

11 July 2012 - For many low-income countries, natural capital is a critical asset, making up nearly 36 per cent of their total wealth. The poorest communities depend on oceans, forests, and soil productivity for their daily existence, and as they grow, the pressure on land and water is increasing, threatening ecosystems and livelihoods in countries with few resources to cope with the loss.
Protecting these vital resources requires reliable data and measurement systems that can ensure they are taken into consideration during development decision making.

The latest edition of the World Bank’s Little Green Data Book, released on May 17, 2012, provides part of that equation with comprehensive data on more than 200 countries’ natural capital, including agricultural land, forests, protected areas, and water resources — information that can help policymakers, communities and other stakeholders weigh the value of natural resources and their role in development.

That information—paired with a natural capital accounting system of measuring national wealth—allows the value of such assets, as well as the costs and benefits of developing them over time, to be measured and factored into assessments of a country’s wealth and growth prospects.

Accurate data on countries’ natural capital can help governments and communities anticipate the broader impacts of competing development options, gauge the sustainability of various practices and activities, make provisions for likely losses and seek trade-offs that optimize their resources.

Among other sustainability measures, the Little Green Data Book 2012 includes an Adjusted Net Savings indicator—also known as "genuine savings”—which calculates the true rate of savings in an economy after taking into account investments in human capital, depletion of natural resources and damage caused by pollution. It also includes an Adjusted Net National Income indicator, which provides a broader measure of national income that accounts for the depletion of energy, mineral and forest resources.

For the original article and to download the Little Green Data Book click here.
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