Natural value nudges $6 trillion
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures show the value of Australia's natural wealth has nearly doubled.
In the decade to 2015, the value of Australia’s natural assets - minerals, forests, farmland and clean water - increased from $3 trillion to $5.8 trillion.
The ABS compiled the environmental and economic indicators in this way for the first time, to paint a picture of changes in the value of natural assets relative to economic activity.
Dr Mike Young, an expert in water and environmental policy from the University of Adelaide, hailed the new data.
“We have never properly looked at our environmental assets — the ones which are the natural ones that sustain us,” he told reporters.
“In the past there's been complex, long, qualitative assessments of where we're up, and moving, to.
“Hopefully in the future we'll be able to look at this in the same way as we look at our GDP data and employment data and say; ‘Look, we're doing really well on the environment’.”
The stats show that in the twenty years to 2014, economic activity rose 73 per cent but water use declined.
This suggests Australia is doing more with less.
“Overall, the performance in the water sector is still impressive. Australia looks like one of the world's smartest users of water,” Prof Young said.
“On waste, the performance is deplorable. We keep on producing more and more waste per dollar of economic activity, and per capita.
The ABS says that for every dollar of economic activity, waste production increased by 50 per cent.
“I think with the focus on greenhouse gas and water we've taken the eye off the ball,” Prof Young said.
“When you look at the progress that's been made, it's frighteningly slow. If we want to avoid what's called dangerous climate change, which means holding global warming well under 2 degrees Centigrade, it's a long way still to go.
“Australia as a nation needs to very careful that its natural assets rise in value. And we need to nurture it so that our per capita wealth stays the same and preferably rises.
“A smart nation would see the value of its natural assets rising as fast as its built assets because it's looking after the two and appreciating both.”