Handbook of Environmental and Resource Economics
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Handbook of Environmental and Resource Economics

Edited by Jeroen C.J.M. van den Bergh

This major reference book comprises specially commissioned surveys in environmental and resource economics written by an international team of experts. Authoritative yet accessible, each entry provides a state-of-the-art summary of key areas that will be invaluable to researchers, practitioners and advanced students.
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Chapter 77: Natural Resource Accounting

S. El Serafy


Salah El Serafy 1. Issues and coverage 1.1 What are natural resources? Natural resources are assets which may be defined narrowly as sources of raw materials and energy, or more broadly to include nature’s capacity to absorb wastes. More broadly still, natural resources may be taken to include the diversity of biological life and life support systems. Biological diversity and life support systems, however, are not easy to quantify or to attach monetary values to, and will not be covered here. Excluded from coverage too will be the degradation of ecological systems, and such natural resource erosion as the depletion of the ozone layer. These do not lend themselves easily to measurement, and may lie outside national accounting systems altogether. Owing to the difficulty of demarcation and the evolving nature of the subject, the discussion here will sometimes conflate natural resource accounting with environmental accounting which is increasingly being called ‘green accounting’. Accounting may be effected in physical units of the measurable stocks of natural resources and their periodic changes, or, more ambitiously, reckoning these in money terms for their integration in the (economic) national accounts. Many institutions and national statistical offices (in Norway, the Netherlands, France, Canada and the US, among others) now collect and publish physical measurements of various aspects of natural resources. Such physical measurements are in themselves a kind of green accounting, and are a sine qua non for monetary valuation. However, it is the integration, or intended integration, of money-valued resource accounts into the standard...

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