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1) Fact Sheet: Biden-⁠Harris Administration Releases National Strategy to Put Nature on the Nation’s Balance Sheet [press release]

Today, the Biden-Harris Administration released the final National Strategy to Develop Statistics for Environmental-Economic Decisions, a historic roadmap that will kick off a multi-year effort to put nature on the nation’s balance sheet for the first time, with an emphasis on better data to understand nature’s critical contributions to the U.S. economy and to guide policy and business decisions moving forward.
 
Current national economic statistics measure the U.S. economy in a manner that does not account for the role and value of underlying natural assets, such as land, water, minerals, animals, and plants. Without natural capital reflected in national statistics, the United States cannot fully track the role of natural capital in driving economic growth, making it harder for public and private sectors to plan for the future. Expanding the national economic accounting system to include natural capital will better capture the links between nature and the economy and lead to a more inclusive and comprehensive accounting of the U.S. economy.
 
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the U.S. Department of Commerce led the development of the final National Strategy to Develop Statistics for Environmental-Economic Decisions, working with more than 27 federal departments and agencies at the table, and incorporating input received from across sectors during a public open comment period.
 
“Natural assets, like land and water, underpin businesses, enhance quality of life, and act as a stabilizing force for economic prosperity and opportunity. They also help counteract the destabilizing risks to our environment and markets caused by climate change and nature loss. Yet the connections between nature and the economy are not currently reflected in our national economic statistics,” wrote OSTP Director Arati Prabhakar, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, and OMB Director Shalanda Young, in a letter introducing the report. “The National Strategy gives us a path to change that. Clearly measuring the quantity and value of natural capital will enable more accurate economic growth forecasts and facilitate a more complete picture of economic progress to inform how we prioritize investments.”
 
Using existing authorities and building on and integrating numerous existing natural capital measurement efforts across the government, implementation of the Final National Strategy to Develop Statistics for Environmental-Economic Decisions will organize the information needed to make informed decisions that enhance economic prosperity in the present, while securing future nature-dependent economic opportunities.
 
https://www.whitehouse.gov/ostp/news-updates/2023/01/19/fact-sheet-biden-harris-administration-releases-national-strategy-to-put-nature-on-the-nations-balance-sheet/
https://www.commerce.gov/news/press-releases/2023/01/fact-sheet-biden-harris-administration-releases-national-strategy-put
 
2) National Strategy to Develop Statistics for Environmental-Economic Decisions: A U.S. System of Natural Capital Accounting and Associated Environmental-Economic Statistics
 
The National Strategy to Develop Statistics for Environmental-Economic Decisions: A U.S. System of Natural Capital Accounting and Associated Environmental-Economic Statistics charts a course to measure natural capital in official U.S. economic statistics. The current absence of these important economic metrics and the omission of nature from the national balance sheet lead to erosion of current and future economic opportunities. The proposed expansion of the national economic accounting system seeks to provide new information to capture links between nature and the economy. This Strategic Plan uses existing authorities and builds on and integrates numerous existing natural capital measurement efforts across many Federal agencies. The resulting multi-year effort will lead to more inclusive and forward-looking conversations about “the economy.” It will provide and organize the information needed to make informed decisions that enhance economic prosperity in the present, while securing future nature-dependent economic opportunities. . . .

This document, shortened hereafter to Statistics for Environmental-Economic Decisions or the Strategic Plan, presents a robust and pragmatic pathway to bring nature into the national economic accounts by developing natural capital accounts supported by environmental-economic statistics. The path articulated in this Strategic Plan treats nature as an asset and incorporates these natural assets on the national balance sheet. These accounts and statistics can work alongside traditional economic statistics, such as GDP, to help guide economic decision making to be more inclusive of the services—or benefits to humans—nature provides. The Strategic Plan also supports Executive Order 14072 that directs agencies to better understand, account for, and find solutions in nature. . . .  
 
Statistics for Environmental-Economic Decisions makes five recommendations to Federal departments and agencies for how to develop and use natural capital accounts and environmental-economic statistics.  

Recommendation 1. The natural capital accounts and environmental-economic statistics should be pragmatic and provide information to:  

a. Guide sustainable development and macroeconomic decision making;  
b. Support Federal decision making in programmatic, policy, and regulatory settings;  
c. Provide structure and data that promote the competitiveness of U.S. businesses;  
d. Support resilient state, territorial, Indigenous, Tribal, and local communities; and  
e. Facilitate conservation and environmental policy.   

Recommendation 2. The natural capital accounts and associated environmental-economic statistics should provide domestic comparability through time and advance international comparisons and harmonization in order to enable the United States to lead with respect to the development of global standards and implementation of those standards.  

Recommendation 3. The natural capital accounts and associated environmental-economic statistics should be embedded in the broader U.S. economic statistical system, and guide the process of embedding with three sub-recommendations. Federal departments and agencies should:

a. Incorporate the internationally-agreed standards of the U.N. System of Environmental Economic Accounting to guide development of U.S. natural capital accounts, where those standards are relevant to the United States and robustly developed. This includes following the standard supply-use framework that structures national economic accounts;   

b. Adhere to more than one, but a small number of, specific asset boundaries, connected to economic activities, in order to accommodate different applications and contexts and be inclusive of different uses and perspectives; and  

c. Use rigorous and the best available economic science for monetizing the value of natural assets.

Recommendation 4. Federal departments and agencies should use a 15-year phased approach to transition from research grade environmental-economic statistics and natural capital accounts to core statistical products, and produce a single headline summary statistic, along with supporting products, tables and reports that provide information in physical and monetary units.  

a. The phased approach is designed to enable new information to be available early in the process, facilitate the first pilot accounts appearing in 2023, provide for testing and development, while over the long term meeting high statistical standards and producing a durable and more comprehensive set of statistics to expand the national economic accounts.  

b. The Strategic Plan recommends that natural capital accounts produce a new forward-looking headline measure focused on the change in wealth held in nature: Change in Natural Asset Wealth. Integrating this new measure with changes in GDP would provide a more complete and more useful view of U.S. economic progress. Pairing Change in Natural Asset Wealth with GDP would help society tell if today’s consumption is being accomplished without compromising the future opportunities that nature provides.

c. The Strategic Plan also recommends the use of dashboards for biological and physical measures.

Recommendation 5. The Federal Government should apply existing authorities and make use of the substantial expertise within Federal departments and agencies, by coordinating across agencies, to develop and update the system of natural capital accounts and environmental-economic statistics in an efficient manner.   
 
https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/Natural-Capital-Accounting-Strategy-final.pdf

3) Jan 27 -- Federal Register notice
 
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB)—on behalf of the Interagency Policy Working Group on Statistics for Environmental-Economic Decisions (Working Group)—is announcing the availability of a finalized Strategic Plan on Statistics for Environmental-Economic Decisions, which was revised in response to public comments and other information received.

Work described in the Strategic Plan to develop natural capital accounts and environmental-economic statistics is ongoing at the time of publication and is planned to continue through 2036, with regular updating of these statistics planned thereafter. For additional information, contact: Andrew Stawasz, email: NaturalCapitalAccounting@omb.eop.gov, telephone: (202) 881-7051.
 
https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2023-01608

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