17th November 2023 |
This month, we got together with farmers and interested landcarers in Campbell Town to learn the basics of environmental accounting as part of the Natural Capital Accounting Benchmarking project (NCA) run by Accounting for Nature® Ltd and Landcare Farming.
Environmental accounting provides standardised, quantifiable assessments of the physical state of environmental assets, including soils, native vegetation and wildlife. These measures can be used to understand whether on-farm actions improve or degrade natural capital and establish a link between the environmental condition and economic decision-making.
We learnt the fundamentals of environmental condition accounting, account stratification and aggregation of field data and also partook in practical exercises, including field measures of the environmental condition of native vegetation, conducting fauna surveys and collecting soil data - we practiced measuring vegetation condition out at the Campbell Town golf course!
Accounting for Nature
It was informative to hear from Accounting for Nature, a not-for-profit business who provide an accounting framework and approve methods to use in the field. They also give accreditation to experts who are qualified to create accounts and audit them.
Measuring natural assets
Dr Amanda Hansson explained the concepts of measuring the condition of your natural assets. Accounting for Nature don't develop methods themselves. For example, the Tasmanian Vegetation Condition Assessment (VCA) commonly used here is an approved method for assessing the condition of native vegetation against a reference vegetation community. There are other approved methods for measuring soil, mammals, birds, and much more. Each one relies on comparing what you have against an approved reference.
Setting Up A Natural Capital Account
Annie Keleher explained how to set up a natural capital account, and the many different reasons why you would set one up, and the types of account that best suit your purpose. For example, there are different account types for individual property owners compared with regional bodies wanting a higher level catchment view.
The account will give a number between 0 - 100 for each natural asset, which represents the condition that asset is in.
The data in your account can be used in other programs like carbon credits or biodiversity credits or other programs that certify 'sustainability'. An account that has been assessed over time can be used to demonstrate an improvement in condition, for example when applying for grants.
There is an ongoing fee for maintaining an account. Before setting up an account, you'd need to decide on your reason for setting it up, so that the methods you choose and the data you collect answers the questions you need to answer.
Those that have a public account can use the Accounting for Nature logo. The logo is meant to be a mark of trust in the data, not a measure of sustainability or good or bad management.
Data Quality Assurance
With their scientific committee and systems for auditing accounts, they aim for very high standards, and intend to prevent biased sampling, or biased site and reference benchmark selection. They want to make it hard for people to fudge the numbers to make it look like their natural assets are in better condition than they are, or that they have improved more than they actually have.
Everyone at this event was really engaged and lots of questions were asked. As with any intriguing topic, many of us left with more questions than we started with, interested to see where this environmental accounting space is going.
- Read more about the Natural Capital Accounting Benchmarking Project here
- Watch a short video summarising the project here
- Accounting for Nature website
This event is being delivered as part of Landcare Tasmania's Landscape Restoration and Community Outreach Programs. Supported by the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, the Landcare Farming Program is managed in partnership with Landcare Australia and the National Landcare Network.
The Natural Capital Accounting Benchmarking project (NCA), is a joint project between Accounting for Nature® Ltd and Landcare Farming to provide training in natural capital accounting methods and develop environmental baseline reports for producers.