Carl Obst

Natural Capital Accounting Consultant at Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute

Academic Article

Recording environmental assets in the national accounts

Accounting information is a core element of economic decision-making at both national and corporate levels. It is widely accepted that much economic activity is dependent upon natural capital and natural resources—generically termed environmental assets in an accounting context. Environmental assets are under threat of depletion and degradation from economic activity. Consequently, the incor- poration of information on environmental assets into standard accounting frameworks is an essential element in mainstreaming environmental information and broadening the evidence base for economic decisions and the assessment of sustainability. This paper describes the treatment of environmen- tal assets within the national economic accounts and summarizes recent developments that extend the accounting approaches as described in the United Nations’ System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA). The potential for implementation of accounting standards for environmental assets is shown through a description of work in Australia on environmental-economic accounting.

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