UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources


UCL report identifies legal options for natural capital accounting

13 June 2014

Ben_Milligan_GLOBE ©GLOBE

Working in partnership with the Global Legislators Organisation,GLOBE International, the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources (UCL ISR) has published a major review of national laws and policies in 21 countries concerning natural capital accounting. The study featured contributions from 56 individuals, including parliamentarians, government officials, external consultants, and subject matter experts from UCL.

The study was officially launched on 7 June 2014 at the 2nd World Summit of Legislators, hosted by the Mexican Congress of the Union in Mexico City. More than 500 presidents, speakers and senior legislators from around the world attended the Summit. One of the study’s lead authors Dr Ben Milligan of the UCL Centre for Law and Environment, based in the UCL Faculty of Laws, highlighted the study's objectives and key conclusions in an address to the Summit's plenary session.

Commenting on the launch of the new study, Dr Milligan said: "The concept of natural capital is attracting political interest globally because it helps economic decision-makers to account for the fact that the natural environment is the foundation on which economic prosperity is built. Characterising the environment as an economic asset provides a potential means to reconcile the urgent need to protect the environment, with the legitimate interest of billions of people globally to pursue poverty alleviation and economic development."

The term 'Natural Capital' refers to components of the natural environment (e.g. healthy ecosystems) that provide economically valuable goods and services (e.g. food, fuel, and water quality regulation). Natural capital accounting is a process that supplements conventional measures of economic activity such as GDP, to provide data and information concerning the economic importance of environmental assets.

The study identifies a flexible set of options for enabling natural capital accounting, highlighting key experiences, challenges and lessons learned in the 21 featured countries. It also outlines a roadmap for future action to improve the global knowledge-base concerning legal and policy options for managing natural capital. 

Professor Paul Ekins, Director of the UCL ISR said: “Getting serious about the sustainable use of natural capital requires that governments measure and monitor it as carefully as they do the other physical infrastructure and income flows in their countries. There are now robust and widely accepted methodologies for doing this, that urgently need to be implemented. We commend GLOBE International for setting up its Natural Capital Initiative to help bring this about, and are pleased to have contributed this report which charts countries’ progress in natural capital accounting. We very much hope this report, and its successors, will add to the momentum in this area that GLOBE International has engendered.”

Further details:

  • Report title: 2nd GLOBE Natural Capital Accounting Study: Legal and policy developments in twenty-one countries
  • Dr Ben Milligan comments on the launch in Inter Press Service article: 'When nature gets a price tag'
  • Authors: Dr Ben Milligan (UCL Centre for Law and Environment); Dr Emma Terama (UCL ISR); Rafael Jimenez-Aybar (Globe International) & Professor Paul Ekins (UCL ISR).
  • Academic contributors: Professor Raimund Bleischwitz (UCL ISR); Simon Damkjaer (UCL ISR); Louise Guibrunet (UCL ISR); Joel Guilbaud(UCL Energy Institute); Marie Longnecker (UCL ISR); Melissa C Lott (UCL ISR); Ruya Perincek (UCL ISR); Jemma Queenborough (UCL Centre for Law and Environment); Darshini Ravindranath (UCL ISR) & Bernard Tembo (UCL ISR)
  • Media contact: Alison Parker, alison.parker@ucl.ac.uk, +44 (0) 203 108 5999