KNOWLEDGE MAP Back to overview

Natural Capital

How can I, as a government, map the role of natural capital?

Many (national) governments are looking to gain insight in the impacts and dependencies on natural capital. Like businesses, they focus on natural capital accounting, although the specifics differ considerably (see “Natural Capital Accounting (for business)” in “How do I gather insight in the role of natural capital for my business?”). Countries are following the SEEA-EEA guidelines from the UN. The agency Statistics Netherlands (CBS) implements these for the Netherlands. Examples from Bonaire and Limburg show that previously unknown value of natural capital extends into the hundreds of millions of euros. 

Natural Capital Accounting (for governments)

Natural capital accounting for governments is the bookkeeping of all stocks and flows of natural capital in a certain ecosystem or region. This can be performed in qualitative, quantitative or monetary terms; see “Qualitative, quantitative and monetary valuation”. All member states of the UN have introduced the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) Experimental Ecosystem Accounting (EEA) for this. In the Netherlands the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) works on the implementation of natural capital accounting according to SEEA-EEA. These accounts describe several ecosystems delivering a range of ecosystem services (e.g., carbon sequestration, water purification, recreation). The accounts describe the dependency and impact on natural capital in relation to economical statistics. 

The aim of SEEA-EEA is to make NCA consistent with the System of National Accounts (SNA). In theory this enables a direct comparison between economic indicators such as GDP and GNI versus natural capital. This is important because GDP looks at only one part of economic performance – income – but says nothing about wealth and assets that underlie this income. For example, when a country exploits its minerals, it is actually depleting wealth. The same holds true for over‐exploiting fisheries or degrading water resources. These declining assets are invisible in GDP and so, are not measured. Wealth accounting, including natural capital accounting (NCA), is needed to sustain growth.

UN (2014).

SEEA-EEA (2013).

Website TEEB.

Website Wereldbank.

CBS (2013).

CBS (2014).

Examples: Limburg province and Bonaire island

In the Dutch province of Limburg the monetary value of a range of ecosystem services was around € 112 million in 2010, with an average value of € 508 per hectare. Ecosystem services with the highest values were crop production, nature tourism and fodder production.

More than ten different ecosystem services on Bonaire (Caribbean) are estimated to have a total economic value of US$ 105 million per year. This value and its underlying components can be used to build a strategy for effective conservation measures.

Remme et al. (2015).

TEEB on Bonaire (2013), p. 3.

CBS (2013).