INCASE final report launches recommendations
Updated: Nov 30
The EPA Research-funded project – Irish Natural Capital Accounting for Sustainable Environments – launched its final report with a number of key recommendations at Trinity College Dublin on November 14th, 2023, with a sizeable turnout in the Botany Building Lecture Theatre and contributions from project funders the EPA and fellow natural capital project, Nature+.
INCASE Principal Investigator, Prof Jane Stout, Trinity College Dublin, welcomed all to the event and presented some background to our project, thanking our multi-disciplinary team of ecologists and economists from four Irish universities - Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, University of Limerick & University of Galway - as well as natural capital pioneers from Australia's IDEEA Group who co-created the UN-backed System of Environmental Economic Accounting-Ecosystem Accounting (or 'SEEA-EA'), which we piloted in four Irish sub-catchments.
Jane presented key findings from the project final report, the first key point being that it is essential that the natural capital accounting be linked to our national accounts in order to ensure that the value of nature is considered in all policy and decision-making.
Jane explained that this natural capital approach is a way to account for the multiple values of nature - for our physical and mental wellbeing, for clean air and water, natural flood protection, shelter and food, the beauty and resilience of diverse wildlife and habitats...these can all be factored into decisions using the framework, as we explained in our animated introduction to Natural Capital video below. Even if these values are hard to articulate in financial terms, they should be accounted for in policy decisions that impact them as, unfortunately, at the moment, they tend not to be considered at all, leading to decisions which are degrading our ecosystems and natural resources, which has a serious knock-on effect for our economy and society.
INCASE lead ecologist Dr Catherine Farrell of Trinity College Dublin described the process of putting together the accounts within the four catchments - the Bride in Co Cork; the Caragh, Co Kerry; the Dargle, Co Wicklow and the Figile in Co Offaly - and emphasised the importance of reaching out to stakeholders. The project taking place through the pandemic years made outreach efforts a little trickier at times - but our GIS data analyst Lisa Coleman managed to gather over 200 datasets from over 30 agencies to create natural capital accounts for the catchments.
Building natural capital (ecosystem & geosystem) accounts involved accessing a wide variety of Irish data sources and the process highlighted the need for collaboration across a range of data providers in Ireland, and for regular and reliable data collection - with investing in our nature-data infrastructure another key recommendation of the report.
Project outputs included a number of published papers in scientific journals - including Applying Ecosystem Accounting to Develop a risk register for peatlands and inform restoration targets at catchment scale and how the method can contribute to green recovery post-Covid in the UN's Decade of Nature Restoration - catch up on all INCASE publications here.
Since the initiation of the INCASE project in 2018, there has been significant international progress in implementing the SEEA-EA as a complementary metric to GDP, with the Central Statistics Office in Ireland taking up the task of developing ecosystem accounts here. Other projects have taken up the mantle of applying the natural capital approach, including ForES - creating a tool for forestry ecosystem services - and Farm Zero C, working with Carbery at farm level to develop systems for carbon-neutral agriculture.
Nature+ is a wind energy project with Trinity College Dublin, and we were lucky to have Emma King with us to give an overview of that project to date - read more here.
Carl Obst of Australia-based IDEEA Group, co-developer of the SEEA-EA framework used for INCASE project, joined us in spirit and via video - watch Carl's video below.
Finally the EPA's Eimear Cotter had some very supportive words about INCASE's work (you can watch her speech below), commenting how the project is the most substantial natural capital project supported by the EPA to date, delivering a solid framework for future projects to build on. EPA Research has now issued a final synthesis (summary) report on INCASE’s work with our 8 key recommendations for implementing the framework at various levels, particularly in relation to Irish national policy.
Read our INCASE Report recommendations in brief here.
You can also access a full-length technical research report on the project, appendixed with a draft paper on The Economic and Environmental Impact of the Agriculture and Climate Strategies to 2030, by Cathal O'Donoghue, Paula Cullen, Lisa Coleman, Catherine Farrell, Stephen Kinsella, Cathal Geoghegan, David Styles, Jane Stout (see Appendix 4.2), and other supplementary data as well as a Natural Capital Glossary (click on desired page in the PDF contents list) plus Supply & Use tables.
Many thanks to all who attended the launch and all who have worked on and supported the project over the past five years.
You can view the slide deck from Jane & Catherine's presentations here.
You can also access a one-pager from the EPA summarising our INCASE synthesis report.
AKNOWLEDGEMENT: This project is funded under the EPA Research Programme 2014-2020. The EPA Research Programme is a Government of Ireland initiative funded by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment. It is administered by the Environmental Protection Agency, which has the statutory function of co-ordinating and promoting environmental research.
DISCLAIMER: Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the material contained in this newsletter, complete accuracy cannot be guaranteed. Neither the Environmental Protection Agency nor the authors accept any responsibility whatsoever for loss or damage occasioned or claimed to have been occasioned, in part or in full, as a consequence of any person acting or refraining from acting, as a result of a matter contained in this newsletter.