Published: 14 October 2016

Operationalising 'absolute sustainability’ in relation to natural capital

Natural capital (NC) has the potential to be a vital component in delivering local and national sustainability of resource use.

But NC risks being used as yet another measure of relative sustainability and resource efficiency gains; we argue that it needs to be considered in the context of ‘absolute sustainability’ as defined by the Planetary Boundaries framework devised by Rockström et al. (2009) and Steffen et al. (2015). Measures of NC need to be related to absolute sustainability budgets and boundaries that we cannot afford to cross, such as the ‘safe’ global carbon budget, and to similar ‘tipping point’ thresholds at more local scales. This approach also draws attention not only to the stock of NC, but to flows, capabilities and resilience in NC, and to dynamic linkages between ecosystems over time...

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