Australia’s first natural resource management agency to audit its environmental assets has welcomed a Joint Statement between the Governments of Australia and the United States on natural capital accounting.

In partnership with Minderoo Foundation, Accounting for Nature and Pollination Group, Burnett Mary Regional Group recently completed the world’s first regional scale environmental account – essentially, a 5.6 million hectare stocktake of natural assets such as vegetation cover, soils, plants and animals.

CEO Sheila Charlesworth said the USA-Australia Joint Statement regarding Cooperation on Natural Capital Accounting, Environmental-Economic Accounting, and Related Statistics was a “significant step” forward.

“The Joint Statement recognises that nature and natural resources are capital assets which are critical for economic growth and prosperity,” Ms Charlesworth said.

“It says their inclusion in economic planning is imperative for addressing 21st century economic challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and declines in natural capital wealth.

“There’s acknowledgement that international cooperation is key to combine the expertise, ingenuity, and creativity necessary for aligning environmental and economic data into national environmental-economic statistics.”

In a recent address to ANU graduates, Accounting for Nature director and former Treasury Secretary, Dr Ken Henry, said environmental accounting provides an opportunity to transform economies.

“The transformation will be facilitated by voluntary markets in carbon credits, carbon credits with embedded co-benefits, biodiversity credits, green bonds, social impact bonds and similar financial instruments,” he said.

Ms Charlesworth said governments are now clearly saying they want to invest in the restoration and preservation of natural capital “at a time when we are compiling the data to help them enable and direct that investment”.

“As climate change forces the world economy to decarbonise, corporations and institutional investors are also looking to invest in natural capital,” she said.

For the Burnett-Mary region in Queensland, Ms Charlesworth said it’s now on the world map as a leader and innovator.

The Joint Statement says Australia and the United States intend to facilitate opportunities for global leadership and agenda setting on natural capital accounting and nature-based solutions, and to encourage other nations to incorporate nature into economic decision making.