Honest accounting can manage dwindling natural resources better


Sydney : Only ‘honest’ accounting of both the positive and flip sides of conservation policy can help us properly manage our dwindling environmental resources, according to a new study.

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Eve McDonald-Madden of University of Queensland Ecology Centre and co-author of the study said that without rigorous and transparent accounting it is impossible to manage the environment.

“Reporting both gains and losses is a basic requirement of honest conservation accounting. The current global standard of reporting gains but not losses is unjustified and potentially misleading,” McDonald-Madden said.

“An auditor from the financial sector would be appalled. Governments around Australia, and all over the world, need to get their environmental accounts cleaned up.”

Hugh Possingham, director of a federally funded Commonwealth Environmental Research Facility on environmental decision-making and co-author of the study, said the field of biodiversity conservation is hampered by weak performance measurement.

“In the corporate world such weak reporting would be considered bad practice,” Possingham said.

The researchers used a case study of land clearing in Queensland from 1997 to 2003 and found, with traditional reporting methods, the conservation gains would appear to be small but positive, said a Queensland release.

“When metrics are used that account for both loss and reservation, they tell a markedly different story,” Possingham said.

“They reveal that overall in that period Queensland lost habitats far faster than they were being conserved. Hopefully changes to land clearing laws and a government commitment to expanding the reserve system will show better performance in the next period.”

McDonald-Madden said honest metrics of conservation achievements are essential to inform people about the performance of their investments.

The study was published in Science.