The EU's economic prosperity and well-being is underpinned by its natural capital, i.e. its biodiversity, including ecosystems that provide essential goods and services, from fertile soil and multi-functional forests to productive land and seas, from good quality fresh water and clean air to pollination and climate regulation and protection against natural disasters. The first priority objective of the 7th Environment Action Programme (7th EAP) is to protect, conserve and enhance the Union’s natural capital. The 7th EAP highlights the need to integrate economic indicators with environmental and social indicators, including by means of natural capital accounting. The mid-term review of the EU biodiversity strategy adopted on 2 October 2015 also stresses that reaching 2020 objectives will require considering suitable approaches for protecting and enhancing our natural capital throughout the EU.
Natural Capital accounting is a tool to measure the changes in the stock of natural capital at a variety of scales and to integrate the value of ecosystem services into accounting and reporting systems at Union and national level. This will result in better management of the Union’s natural capital. An integrated natural accounting system for ecosystems and their services and associated data sets is being developed by the Knowledge Innovation Project (KIP INCA). This will aim to provide a multi-purpose tool that can be used decision making for a range of policies, at different stages of the policy cycle, and that national authorities and research centres can access. It can enable to explicitly account for the range of ecosystems and their services and demonstrate in monetary terms the benefits of investing in nature and the sustainable management of resources. KIP INCA involves: DG ENV, ESTAT, EEA, JRC, RTD, and links with MS activities and MAES.
NCA and the work of INCA can provide added value in a range of specific policy contexts including: