The United States depends on nature for economic prosperity and health. The U.S. statistical system currently does not have a core set of environmental measures, and nature is not well-reflected in the U.S. economic statistical system. The U.S. economic statistical system for measuring national economic performance came of age during and immediately following World War II, to coordinate mass production in the wake of the war. Today, our economy has changed, and our planet faces new threats from climate change—from the loss of natural resources once thought inexhaustible, to the degradation of air and water quality—making traditional economic measures less useful for communicating and understanding economic performance. The economic statistical system does not currently reflect investments in conservation or restoration of natural resources or the lost value associated with degrading nature. Therefore, a system of natural capital accounts is important for monitoring and growing the U.S. economy in a sustainable fashion, ensuring environmental conservation, and enabling firms operating in the U.S. to remain competitive.
To better align the Nation’s economic statistical measures with the current state of knowledge, on Earth Day 2022, the Biden-Harris Administration announced an initiative to develop a system of Statistics for Environmental-Economic Decision-making that maintains Natural Capital Accounts and associated Environmental-Economic Statistics. This initiative spans many federal agencies. These agencies are developing a long-term strategy for developing natural capital accounting and associated environmental-economic statistics. The group intends to finalize the strategic plan in January 2023. During this session, federal experts will discuss key elements of that plan, priorities of the effort, and important decision points. The panel, comprised of federal and non-governmental experts, will highlight important elements of a systematic and statistically rigorous approach to natural capital accounting for the United States. Federal agency experts will also discuss how the system builds on years of research. Outside experts on the panel will provide their perspectives on how to maximize the value of this new effort.
This session will be an open discussion with the statistical community about the core statistical elements of such a system, how to design a rigorous system that also meets the needs and desires of multiple uses with high quality standards, and discussion about what future research is needed to support such a system.
Eli Fenichel (Moderator), Assistant Director for Natural Resource Economics and Accounting, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)
Scott Wentland, Senior Research Economist, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).
Kerrie Leslie, Senior Statistician, Statistical & Science Policy Branch, Office of Information & Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
Jacob Malcom, Director of the Office of Policy Analysis, U.S. Department of Interior (DOI)
Maureen Cropper, Distinguished University Professor and Chair of the Economics Department at the University of Maryland