Natural capital has the potential to be a vital component in assessing local and national sustainability of resource use. But natural capital risks being used as yet another measure of relative sustainability and resource efficiency gains; we argue that it needs to be considered in the context of ‘absolute sustainability’ as defined by the Planetary Boundaries framework devised by Rockstrom, Steffen et al in recent years. Measures of natural capital need to be related to absolute sustainability budgets and boundaries that we cannot afford to cross, such as the ‘safe’ global carbon budget or biodiversity models, and to similar ‘tipping point’ thresholds at lower scales. This approach also draws attention not only to the stock of NC, but to flows, capabilities and resilience in natural capital stocks, and to dynamic linkages between ecosystems over time.
Key Message: natural capital needs to be measured not only in relative terms but also in the framework of ‘planetary boundaries’ and ‘absolute sustainability’.
Supplied by: University of Surrey
Download the paper (pdf): Operationalising ‘absolute sustainability’ in relation to natural capital