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Irish Natural Capital Forum to be set up

Friday, May 02 16:15:27

A Natural Capital Forum will be set up to advance a comprehensive economic assessment of the whole range of resources, goods and services produced by the Irish environment.

The initiative follows a conference earlier this week where over 100 representatives of businesses, investors, State agencies, landowners, environmental NGOs and academics attended 'Natural Capital: Ireland's Hidden Wealth" at the National Botanic Gardens.

The conference focused on finding ways to accurately measure, in economic terms, our 'natural capital debt' - the unacknowledged cost of environmental degradation and its impact on human wellbeing.

"Contemporary tax-payers, future generations, and the world's poor, all pay this debt, whether we realize it or not," Dr. Rudolf de Groot, a lead author of The Economics of Ecology and Biodiversity TEEB report, told the meeting. "We may think of nature as priceless, but we must learn to recognize all its values".

The conference also considered the potential of restoration strategies to enhance and augment our natural capital, reversing the long, continuous trend of degradation in recent times.

The meeting was addressed by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan, who said that during Ireland's economic crisis we had lost our focus on biodiversity, and that this had been to our detriment. He welcomed the conference's contribution to highlighting the economic and social value of goods and services provided by nature.

After contributions from international and national experts in the field, the conference unanimously endorsed a proposal to establish a national Natural Capital Forum, which will be set up with the support of public and private agencies. EU member states have agreed to integrate Natural Capital Accounting into their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) calculations by 2020, and the Forum will assist in meeting this goal.