Massive Show of Support for Action on Natural Capital Accounting At Rio Summit

June 20, 2012

Over 50 countries, over 80 companies commit to stepping up

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, June 20, 2012 -- Over fifty countries and 86 private companies have joined forces behind the move to factor the value of natural assets like clean air, clean water, forests and other ecosystems into business decision-making and countries systems of national accounting.

Fifty-seven countries and the European Commission are supporting a communiqué that calls on governments, the UN system, international financial institutions and other international organizations to strengthen the implementation of natural capital accounting around the world.

Private sector companies and financial institutions - like Wal-Mart, Woolworths Holdings, Unilever, Standard Chartered, and Caisse des Dépôts-- some of which have already endorsed initiatives like the finance-led Natural Capital Declaration and the Natural Capital Leadership Compact, have reaffirmed their commitment to collaborate globally to integrate natural capital considerations into their decision-making processes.

Speaking at an event at the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development today, World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development Rachel Kyte said all the ingredients for the implementation of natural capital accounting were now in place, including a UN-recognized methodology, political commitment at the highest level and strong private sector support.

"Rio has provided an opportunity for countries and the private sector to step up their commitment to natural capital accounting and to demonstrate its potential benefits to a global audience," Kyte said. "There is now overwhelming support for implementation across the world. Let's look back in 20 years from now and remember that this was the time when we changed the way we accounted for nature."

Today’s event included President Chinchilla of Costa Rica, President Bongo Ondimba of Gabon, Prime Minister Stoltenberg of Norway, Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt of Denmark, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg of the UK and European Commission Janez Potocnik as well as numerous corporate leaders.

Deputy Prime Minister Clegg said: "National governments must move beyond a narrow understanding of wealth. Right now we judge how well a country is doing by looking almost exclusively at the money it makes, ignoring the state of assets like forests or coastal areas – vital natural capital. I am pleased to support the World Bank’s 50/50 campaign which calls on business and governments to commit to natural capital accounting. Only with this sort of joint effort will we start to make the sort of progress needed.”

Governments, private companies and international organizations including the World Bank Group have identified the need for coordinated action to:

  • develop institutional arrangements to strengthen the implementation of natural capital accounting;
  • develop science-based methodologies for natural capital accounting as a complement to GDP and corporate performance measurements; and
  • pilot and demonstrate the economic, social and environmental aspects of scaled up and integrated approaches to natural capital accounting.

The World Bank is supporting countries to factor their natural capital into systems of national accounts through a global partnership called WAVES (Wealth Accounting and the Valuation of Ecosystem Services). At today’s event in Rio, the Government of the Netherlands announced €2 million in support for WAVES. 

“The Netherlands has experience with environmental accounting since the nineties,” said Ben Knapen, Minister of European Affairs and International Cooperation, The Netherlands. “Today I am glad to announce we are able to support the promoting of the incorporation of natural capital into national account through the World Bank’s WAVES program in a few partner countries (with a financial contribution of €2 million).”

The Government of France, which also recently pledged around $1 million in support to WAVES, confirmed that: “For France, environmental accounting is part of the more global work on beyond GDP indicators. It is a prior and urgent need in order to better inform the policy-decision making. Therefore France strongly supports the development of common methodologies and sharing of concrete experiences, based on the UN framework of SEEA (System of Environmental-Economic Accounting), as promoted by WAVES.”

President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon said: “Accounting for all aspects of sustainable development, including natural capital, is crucial to our efforts to construct a sustainable future for humanity.”

Paul Polman Chief Executive Officer of Unilever said: “The world urgently needs a shift to a more sustainable, equitable form of capitalism, but we cannot do this without the financial sector whose lending and investment decisions determine whether our natural capital is further depleted or enhanced. The Natural Capital Declaration is a very welcome demonstration of much needed leadership in this area.”

The WAVES partnership includes the United Nations Environment Program, the United Nations Development Program, and the United Nations Statistical Commission; the countries of Botswana, Colombia, Costa Rica, Madagascar, and the Philippines, which are implementing programs; as well as financial or technical support from Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Norway, the United Kingdom, and several civil society organizations.

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