Renewable Matter # 09 / March-April

Priceless and Unnoticed

by Gianfranco Bologna

We are talking about the link between the environment and the Stability Act passed just before Christmas. In particular, Art. 67 stands out for its innovative nature: it sets up the National Committee for natural capital whose activities (including the drawing up of an updated report on Italy’s natural capital state) are included in the domestic economy planning process.

It is undoubtedly a step forward that brings Italy on a par with similar realities already present or being created in several counties. For instance, the UK set up its Natural Capital Committee in 2012 (www.naturalcapitalcommittee.org), formalized after the publication of “The Natural Choice: Securing the Value for Nature,” aiming to provide expert independent support to the British government on the state of the national natural capital. Chaired by Oxford University economist Dieter Helm, the committee has already published three reports on the state of England’ natural capital in 2013, 2014 and 2015, besides several secondary works thus sparking off a successful parliamentary debate on how to assess and report the importance of national natural capital. 

So, finally, Italian regulations are heading towards considering the value of nature as a central issue and not just as marginal and accidental, as it is the case at the moment. 

As a matter of fact, the future of our society cannot do away with taking into due consideration economic mechanisms affecting the actions of governments and businesses, and natural systems that have evolved over 3.5 billion years. It is an extraordinary wealth that offers daily and free of charge a series of services to the development and wellbeing of humans societies: from water resources to terraforming and the preservation of biogeochemical cycles to the chemistry of our atmosphere, from biodiversity richness to photosynthesis. 

This invaluable wealth – that is our natural capital – should take centre stage in economic development models. On the contrary, our societies put extraordinary pressure on our natural systems. Not only by exploiting and depleting resources, but also by setting up production processes that produce a huge amount of waste that natural systems find very hard to metabolize. In so doing, we have dramatically depleted the natural capital essential for our future and that can still guarantee a lesser unsustainable path for years to come – as indicated by the 2030 Agenda with its 17 sustainable development goals adopted by the last UN General Assembly. It is no accident that the law we are talking about also provides for the creation of a National Strategy for Sustainable Development. 

The natural capital cannot carry on being invisible to economics models, but it must be considered crucial for humanity. This is why today we try to identify ways of assessing nature so as to put a value on it that cannot be quantified in monetary terms because the value of structures, processes, functions and services of natural systems goes well beyond a mere financial assessment. It is an extraordinary challenge for the future of us all. 

We have no other choice but to pick up the gauntlet.

 

 

Sustainable Development Goals, sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs