Edited by Nelly T.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) the value of Australia’s natural wealth almost doubled within the last decade, rising from $3 trillion in 2006 to $5.8 trillion in 2015.
This is the first time ABS has compiled the environmental and economic indicators which fuel the economy, the figures are based on Australia’s natural assets such as minerals, forests, farmland and clean water.
This gives a clear representation of how much of the nations natural assets are eroded or improved by economic activity.
Mike Young, professor of water and environmental policy, University of Adelaide embraced the new release.
“Really since the start of time in Australia we have never properly looked at our environmental assets – the ones which are the natural ones that sustain us,” he said.
“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’.”
Economic activity increased 73% in the two decades to 2014, this coincided with the same phase water use declined, suggesting Australia was doing more with less.
The years coincided with the millennium drought, driving water efficiency measures that have carried on since the drought ended.
“Overall, the performance in the water sector is still impressive. Australia looks like one of the world’s smartest users of water,” he said.
However the information was not all good.
“On waste, the performance is deplorable. We keep on producing more and more waster per dollar of economic activity, and per capita.”
Waste production rose by roughly 50% for each dollar of economic activity.
Professor Young explained, “I think with the focus on greenhouse gas and water we’ve taken our eye off the ball.”
Economic activity had the sharpest increase within the last decade, followed by energy use and Greenhouse gases, revealing the worsening climate change was not an inevitable result of prosperity.
In Professor Young’s opinion not enough effort has been made to address climate change.
“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.”
He said the new report would provide a valuable tool for decision makers in the future.
“Australia as a nation need to be 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.”