The Planetary Accounting Framework
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There is a need for a poly-scalar approach to Earth-system management. Such an approach should be one which is integrative across different scales, sectors, and timeframes. It should not be controlled by a single body, but could be implemented through governance, privatization, or self-organized management, that is coordinated by a general system of rules which have different mechanisms at different centres of activity. Planetary Accounting enables a poly-scalar approach. It extends the concepts of carbon accounting and science based targets accross all of the Planetary Boundaries. It enables the comparison of the environmental footprints of human activity to a share of scientific global limits. It can be used to report progress towards an “end goal” for sustainability. However, its unique value is its utility as a decision making tool at all scales of human activity. Planetary Accounting creates a framework for innovation and transformative change towards human activity within the Planetary Boundaries.
In order for Planetary Accounting to be possible, we derived a new set of global limits, the “Planetary Quotas” that connect the Planetary Boundaries to environmental accounting in a way that can be scaled and used as the basis of decision-making. Planetary Accounting allows people to quantify what needs to be done to return to and maintain planetary health.
The Planetary Accounting Framework shows how to use the Planetary Quotas and environmental accounting methods to calculate environmental parameters for different scales and types of activity and to compare these to the status quo. One potential output of Planetary Accounting is an impact balance statement which shows the environmental credits or deficits of an activity in each environmental currency.
Planetary Accounting can be used to inform policy and governance, business operations, legislation, design and technology, and behaviour change programs. It is the basis for a new not-for-profit research centre—the Planetary Accounting Network (PAN). Planetary Accounting has the flexibility and high resolution needed to form the general system of rules for a poly-scalar approach to Earth-system management.
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