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One of the best things about a set of natural capital accounts is that it sets a baseline for future measurements of biodiversity.

If our goal – as a society – is to restore biodiversity, we need to understand what we’re working with. We need the full picture of biodiversity, where is it, how is it changing and what is driving that change – recognising it is different for each geographic area.

At the moment, biodiversity in Australia is measured using a piecemeal approach. There are hundreds of well-intentioned projects, and a range of incredibly useful data sets are available. But it’s almost like a death by 1,000 cuts. Each data set reports the same bad news: we are losing our biodiversity. What’s missing is a system that ties all the data sets together – one, standard way of measuring biodiversity that we can return to, again and again. One that is shared and that we can all contribute too.

That approach to creating that data set is natural capital accounting.

Using the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA), we can evolve beyond the piecemeal approach. We can set a baseline for where Australia’s biodiversity is right now, and then we can measure it accurately at regular intervals in the future.

This will help us as we aim for the important targets we need to meet to prevent catastrophic climate change, including the 30×30 biodiversity targets. And without this baseline set of data how can we expect a nature market to operate when we don’t know how much exists, where it exists and who can trade it! If we use natural capital accounting, we can accurately define what 30% looks like and where it is.