By Jonathan L. Mayuga, October 27, 2022; BusinessMirror

THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) are jointly working on a plan to establish a natural wealth accounting system for the Philippines.

In a news release, DENR Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo Loyzaga said the creation of the natural capital accounting system will significantly support the development of strategies for a science-based, risk-informed, ethical, and equitable stewardship of the environment, which she strongly espouses in the DENR.

Such a system will provide an enabling platform for the DENR and other government agencies to come up with specific policies and programs that integrate climate change adaptation in various economic, fiscal, social, political, and environment decisions, she said.

“What we need to do is apply a climate-risk lens to the work of the DENR, which means that climate and disaster-risk assessments will become part of the processes that we will undertake,” Loyzaga had told a press conference during the DENR Multi-stakeholder Forum held on October 5 in Manila.

The announcement of the DENR-NEDA-PSA joint initiative comes on the heels of a report quoting an expert from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) warning that the continued reliance of most countries on gross domestic product growth in measuring wealth was setting off the planet on an irremediable course of destruction, as extractive industries and reliance on fossil fuels, for example, spawn environmental problems.

Major biodiversity losses in the past few years are “by-products” of the world’s economic growth, according to Francesco Ricciardi, a Senior Environment Specialist, Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department at the Manila-based multilateral development bank.

Moving away from GDP as the main economic growth measure could help reverse this trend.

Ricciardi said the increased polluting emissions in water, air and soil, land-use change, climate change and the spread of invasive species are considered the major drivers of biodiversity loss.

The ADB expert said if business as usual happens and no interventions are made, the global economy may continue to grow but only up to a “tipping point” which will force biodiversity to collapse. He said, if the planet dies, there will be no economy to speak of.

Ricciardi cited the need for rethinking how wealth and economic growth are measured.

Economists and media professionals should promote other indices of wealth, including natural and social capital, to not only focus on GDP growth.

Disaster risk hot spots

IN a 2022 report by the World Risk Index, the Philippines was ranked first out of 193 countries on the list of global disaster risk hot spots.

Loyzaga explained that the country’s vulnerability to natural hazards is due to its physical exposure as well as its inability and lack of capacity in adopting climate change tools and technologies.

She said the planned accounting system will serve as the foundation for DENR’s priority programs, such as establishing the national natural resource geospatial database, calibration and streamlining of organizational processes and people, and strengthened collaboration with its stakeholders.

Part of the creation of a national natural resource geospatial database is to provide an inventory that is dynamically projected and can be accessed by the different offices, bureaus and agencies concerned to continuously check the progress of projects, and even their risks.

Besides climate and disaster-risk assessment, vulnerability assessment—both qualitative and quantitative—is equally important to help the DENR identify where it is headed, and what its priority areas and action areas are in moving forward.