Roy Brooke and Michelle Sawka: It's Time to Place a Real Value on Nature in Canada’s Accounting Framework

Sourced from The Province

Every day, decisions are made in communities across Canada about where and how to build new developments and infrastructure. There are many factors to consider in these decisions. Time and again they tend to omit the value of nature. It isn’t because all decision makers do not value nature, but because no one is including its value in their decision-making processes.

The result? We give nature an implied value of zero in many critical development decisions. This needs to stop. Currently there is an important push in the public sector to improve how we think about and value nature, and it’s being led by someone you may not expect: accountants.

Leading local governments in B.C., Ontario, New Brunswick and beyond currently inventory, measure and manage green infrastructure natural assets as part of their core processes. Natural assets — things like forests, wetlands and foreshores — provide communities with vital services such as stormwater management, flood protection and water purification. What’s more, they often do it at a lower cost.

Local government efforts to account for natural assets fit well within the modern municipal asset management processes required in many provinces across the country. However, they run afoul of Canadian public sector accounting rules, which do not allow accountants to consider natural assets to be ‘real’ assets for financial purposes.

This could — and should — change, however, as the result of an ongoing consultation led by Canada’s Public Sector Accounting Board. They develop the Handbook that guides Canada’s public sector accountants, and this consultation is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make adjustments to the concepts underlying our Canadian public sector accounting standards.

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