UK to press for global green accounting system

 

A A A

Britain will be pressing for governments everywhere to adopt "green accounting", formally putting a value on environmental assets such as forests as much as on economic output, at a major world conference on sustainable development to be held in Brazil in June.

Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary, will be spearheading an initiative to get all countries to move from statements of their Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, to national accounts based on "GDP-plus", which would involve assessing the balance of their "natural capital", such as the ecosystems that provide everything from oxygen and water to flood defences, seemingly for free.

The British Government has already taken the first steps down this road and hopes to have a full set of its own "GDP-plus" national accounts by 2020. And the idea that all countries should take it up will be put forward by Ms Spelman at a meeting in Rio de Janeiro to mark the 20th anniversary of the Earth Summit, the celebrated UN gathering in Rio in 1992, where more than 100 world leaders put the environment on the international political agenda, and signed the first climate change treaty.

This year's meeting, formally called the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, but generally referred to as "Rio+20", is also likely to be attended by many world leaders, although David Cameron has not yet made up his mind whether to attend in person, or to have Britain represented by the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg.

The conference aim is to give a worldwide boost to the sustainable development concept – the idea that if nations grow rapidly, especially developing countries trying to raise their population out of poverty, they should do so in a way that does not destroy the environment and trash their own natural resource base.

After the Earth Summit, sustainable development was a dominant theme of policy for more than a decade, but in recent years, the idea has faded, especially with the onset of the global recession. Rio+20 is seen as a chance to reignite the enthusiasm for green growth.

The UN says it is "a historic opportunity to define pathways to a safer, more equitable, cleaner, greener and more prosperous world for all".

However, the first draft of the conference document, just published, has been criticised for being vague about what the meeting can achieve, and yesterday Ms Spelman set out the British Government's aims for Rio in June and highlighted the area of green accounting. "We believe that you can really drive significant greening if you take proper account of the value of natural capital in your government accounts," she said.

"In government accounts at the moment, no account is taken of what appears to be free. One of the telling examples I've often used is if – God forbid – there were no pollinators [such as bees], it would cost the economy £400m a year to substitute for that.

"It's recognised that the snapshot of the state of the economy based on GDP is too narrow today, and that's what we'll be advocating in Rio."

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Powdered colors are displayed for sale at a market ahead of the Holi festival in Bhopal, India
techHere's what you need to know about the riotous occasion
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable