Case Studies from Southern Africa
Chapter 1: Basic Concepts and Methods of Natural Resource and Environmental Accounting
Glenn-Marie Lange, Rashid Hassan and Kirk Hamilton 1.1 INTRODUCTION All economies are heavily dependent on the environment as a source of materials and energy, as a sink for waste products and as the physical habitat for human communities. This capacity of the environment constitutes our ‘natural’ capital. Over the past few decades, most countries have come to embrace the notion of sustainable development, expressed in popular form by the Brundtland Commission Report, Our Common Future, as ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ (WCED, 1987). There has since been a search for concepts to operationalize this notion: a clear definition of sustainable development and tools to help achieve it. One approach to operationalize sustainable development has been in the area of national accounting: incorporating the role of the environment in the economy more fully into the System of National Accounts (SNA) through a system of satellite accounts for the environment. The SNA is particularly important because it constitutes the primary source of information about the economy and is widely used for analysis and decision-making in all countries. However the SNA has had a number of wellknown shortcomings regarding the treatment of the environment. With regard to minerals, for example, until recently the SNA recorded only the income from mining but not the corresponding depletion of this natural capital. Similarly, a country could appear to enjoy high economic growth as it depleted its forests or fisheries, followed by...
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