From the President – Autumn 2022 – National Parks Association of Queensland

From the President – Autumn 2022

Author: Susanne Cooper

Photography: Samantha Smith

Hello – and an interesting development to start off the year.

Should we place a financial value on nature – and assess the $ contribution it makes to our economy? Yes on both counts, according to a new initiative on the New York Stock Exchange, which has established a new class of publicly traded assets called Natural Asset Companies (NAC’s). These focus on protecting, restoring and expanding natural terrestrial and marine ecosystems, including forests, grasslands, wetlands and coral reefs. They hold the rights to the ecosystem services such as pollination of crops, water quality, carbon sequestration and soil productivity produced by lands in a natural, working or restorative condition. Globally, these ecosystem services are valued around $125 trillion annually, which highlights the financial potential of this asset class that is solely based on biodiversity and environmental condition. There has been considerable work to develop an accounting framework to measure ecological condition and performance.

Some of the investors or partnering organisations include the WWF, BirdLife International, New York Stock Exchange, Inter-America Development Bank, Conservation International and The Rockefeller Foundation. Quite a varied list.

Some of us may have reservations about nature and biodiversity being given a monetary value and traded on the stock exchange. However, this initiative is of interest as it could be transformational – by showing that natural ecosystems are not simply a cost to manage, but instead are an essential and productive asset that invites investment which generates financial capital and a source of wealth for governments and their citizens.

It is relevant to NPAQ as too often State and Federal governments see investing in national parks and other protected areas as a cost to the budget, rather than securing and protecting an essential asset that will pay multiple dividends into the future. It is interesting that the financial and investment sectors have recognised the value and potential for returns on investment well before most governments.

This could trigger a substantive shift in how our natural environment is valued. It also highlights that the health of our natural ecosystems is the very foundation of our economies, livelihoods and quality of life worldwide. In addition, it will help to forge a global focus and attention on the importance of biodiversity to not just our health and quality of life, but to our continued existence.

This also demonstrates how our thinking, priorities and what we value are changing internationally. It won’t solve the global decline in our biodiversity (ecosystems have estimated to have declined globally in size and condition by 47% compared to estimated baselines), but it may generate further investment and commitment to protect and restore nature.

Perhaps this is an optimistic assessment, though we will watch its progress with interest.

I hope you are faring well during the unpredictable and extreme weather we’ve been having over the past month.

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