Comprehensive wealth in Canada: Measuring what matters in the long run

Authored by IISD (International Institute for Sustainable Development). Published in 2016.

This study reviewed Canada’s comprehensive wealth performance over the 33-year period from 1980 to 2013. This timeframe extends well beyond business and political cycles, ensuring that the results reveal trends free from the ebb and flow of markets and policies.

Comprehensive wealth focuses on the role of people, the environment and the economy in creating and sustaining well-being. Complementing indicators like gross domestic product (GDP) and addressing issues the can’t capture on their own, comprehensive wealth measures are key to successfully guiding Canada through the 21st century and beyond.

Comprehensive wealth measures human capital, natural capital, produced capital, and social capital.

The report’s focus on natural capital is on natural capital stocks, which supply ecosystem goods, and not also natural capital funds, which supply ecosystem services. The report draws attention to the drawdown of natural capital (stocks) which usually implies a drawdown in natural capital (funds).

The report says: “Due to a combination of physical depletion and changing market conditions, the value of Canada’s minerals, fossil fuels, timber and agricultural land per person declined by a startling 25 per cent between 1980 and 2013. More recent data signal an even greater decline due to the steep drop in global oil prices. A series of climate and ecosystem indicators compiled for the study point to declines in other forms of natural capital.”

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