The Vision below is the collective work of the Natural Capital Lab Innovators, drafted in a series of discussions over the past several months. We are sharing the Vision Statement as a working draft to seek input from our community of knowledgeable and passionate natural capital enthusiasts. If after reading the Statement, any questions, comments, concerns come to mind, please get in touch.
Background and Context
Canada’s resources are vast, but today we are releasing more carbon into the atmosphere than natural systems can sequester. We are degrading our freshwater resources, and losing biodiversity at an unprecedented rate. We can feel ourselves bumping up against nature’s limits and don’t even have a clear understanding of the true cost of our actions.
To make informed decisions we need to understand all of our assets. Seeing only one part of the equation isn’t good enough anymore.
Canadians intuitively grasp the importance of our natural capital – stocks of natural assets which include minerals, timber, soil, water and ecosystems – but we do a poor job of measuring it. Natural capital is the basis of much of our wealth and underpins our economy, but our businesses, communities, and government have no shared, robust means of factoring the value of these assets into their decisions.
We need a consistent, robust approach to natural capital, and the Natural Capital Lab offers a vision and path to getting there.
Natural Capital Lab Vision Statement
We envision a future in which:
Canada’s natural capital and ecosystem services are consistently valued and an integral part of corporate, government and community decisions;
Canada continues to derive benefit from its vast natural capital while protecting and restoring natural systems for future generations and;
Canada is a global leader in valuing and sustainably managing ecosystems services as a cornerstone of our economy.
Characteristics of Success
Achieving this vision by 2030 means that:
- Natural capital considerations are required and integrated into decision-making by all orders of government, the private sector, non-profit organizations and Indigenous communities.
- Canadians are aware, value and act upon the benefit that natural capital and ecosystem services provide to their health, wellbeing and economic success.
- Canada’s natural capital is healthy, resilient and sustainable.
- The conservation and use of Canada’s natural capital are done through a process that, among other things, ensures all voices are represented and considered.
- Data related to natural capital are collected using standardized methods and are shared in a transparent manner with all Canadians.
- The data feed into comprehensive wealth measurement, which goes beyond gross domestic product to assess the long-term sustainability of Canada’s economy by balancing the needs of society and the environment.
- Our use of natural capital takes into consideration and incorporates Indigenous treaty rights, traditional knowledge, and values.
The Natural Capital Lab Vision and Characteristics of Success are underscored by three main concepts, all defined below.
“Natural capital is another term for the stock of renewable and non-renewable resources (e.g. plants, animals, air, water, soils, minerals) that combine to yield a flow of benefits to people. The benefits provided by natural capital include clean air, food, water, energy, shelter, medicine, and the raw materials we use in the creation of products. It also provides less obvious benefits such as flood defence, climate regulation, pollination and recreation.” (Natural Capital Coalition, 2017)
Ecosystem Goods and Services
“Ecosystem goods are the products from natural capital such as food, fibre, clean air, and water; ecosystem services are the less tangible but no less significant benefits from ecosystem processes such as nutrient cycling, water purification and climate regulation, and non-material benefits such as recreation, aesthetic and cultural benefits.” (Source: Municipal Natural Asset Initiative, 2017).
“Comprehensive wealth includes natural, human and social capital in addition to produced and financial capital. Collectively, these five asset categories have come to be known as comprehensive wealth.” (Institute for International Sustainable Development, 2017).