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Climate and Environment Minister Espen Barth Eide acknowledges the situation. In Nationen on 13 June, he wrote that we must stop using nature as a credit card without a limit – because we consume nature to an extent that makes it disappear forever. Will Prime Minister Støre, Minister of Finance Vedum and the rest of the government with Barth Eide on a binding new course move away from uncontrolled consumption of nature?
The participants in the TV show luxury trap do not have control over what they spend money on, and end up in ever deeper debt. Norwegian society has fallen into the luxury trap for nature because we have neither budget nor accounts, and nature debt increases every year.
The first step towards improvement in the TV program is to get an overview of the situation, make consumption visible on a whiteboard and commit to a new life. A nature account, which the government has loved in the Hurdal platform, can provide just such a board for nature.
The next step is to use the natural accounts to change actions and reduce luxury consumption: steer development away from important nature and prevent development from exacerbating climate change.
As with other financial management, we need to get in balance. For nature, it is called area neutrality, which means that nature that is degraded must always lead to the restoration of corresponding natural values.
As in the TV program, it will be a relief to get out of the luxury trap for nature – with better, more long-term and fairer planning in municipalities and in sectors.
It will reduce conflicts, increase predictability, streamline decision-making processes and, all in all, be good for investors, decision-makers, planners, developers and residents. And not least help to preserve more nature.
The government must immediately spend money on the first step: Put in place the overview of nature. We need technology development to be able to use data from satellites, field biologists, compelling maps of nature’s qualities, condition and ecosystem services, credible systems for ecological compensation, and the state must develop common accounting systems that can be used by all.
The natural accounts must be able to be used when making area decisions at municipal level. A politician should be able to benefit from the natural accounts in the municipal council hall. We now lack an overview of nature, and daily areas are lacking for deforestation, destruction of bogs and construction in the beach zone, which is in stark contrast to the crisis nature is in.
A number of surveys and research reports state that Norwegian municipalities today do not have the tools, framework, capacity or competence to manage in line with the goals of sustainable land management.
As a representative of the Ministry of Local Government and District Affairs aptly said in a seminar on natural accounting: “Many municipal planning departments consist of a person who works 50 per cent with a plan and 50 per cent with child welfare”. Therefore, we also need a strong boost in competence and capacity for nature in the municipalities. And we need a review of nature’s actual legal certainty in the legislation.
Minister of the Environment Barth Eide says that if we had set Norwegian nature as a company, we would not have known how many people worked there, how many factories we had, or what we made. This leads to many red numbers.
The UN has already adopted a system for natural accounts, and the EU requires reporting by 2026. Norwegian nature and we are desperately waiting for a strategic investment in the natural accounts in this autumn’s state budget. Then we will see if this will be handling, and not just great words from the Minister of the Environment.