Jean-Louis Weber

Recording ecological debts in the national accounts: possibilities offered by the development of ecosystem capital accounts

Jean-Louis Weber
Special Adviser on Economic-Environmental Accounting, European Environment Agency, Copenhagen,Denmark
Day 1 14:30-15:10

Accounting standards for business and national accounts state clearly that accounts’ fairness is based primarily on the complete recording of revenues and costs, including the costs resulting from capital depreciation. In that way, National Accounts deduct Consumption of Fixed Capital from GDP to calculate Net National Income. However, the natural capital is depreciated in the best case in accounts only for its commercial value, subsoil assets, timber or fish stocks; it is not depreciated regarding degradation of the ecosystem’s primary functions which are an externality for the economy while being a public good essential to human wellbeing. Recording the Consumption of Ecosystem Capital (CEC) in National Accounts on par with Consumption of Fixed Capital is one of the objectives of ecosystem capital accounts. It allows calculating adjusted values for key aggregates such as Net Domestic Product, Net National Income, and Final Consumption at the Full Price of domestic and imported commodities. CEC being an externality is not paid by the economy and its recording cannot result in GDP modification. Instead, CEC should be recorded as ecological debt. Recording ecological debts opens the way to defining new monetary and financial instruments able at fostering sound ecosystem management


Jean-Louis Weber

Special Adviser on Economic-Environmental Accounting. Economist and statistician. National accountant in the French statistical institute, then in charge of Natural Patrimony Accounts in France. Now with the EEA, in charge of land and ecosystem capital accounts for Europe. Represents EEA in the UN System of Environmental-Economic Accounts revision.

Publications:

  • Haines-Young, R; Weber J.-L. (2006), “Land accounts for Europe, 1990-2000”, EEA report n°11/2006
  • Weber, J.-L., (2007),“Implementation of land and ecosystem accounts at the European Environment Agency”, Ecological Economics, Volume 61, Issue 4, Pages 695-707, 2007
  • Weber, J.-L., (2011), “An Experimental Framework for Ecosystem Capital Accounting in Europe”, EEA technical report, forthcoming November 2011