In a pioneering report, the International Institute for Sustainable Development in December released the first national study of “comprehensive wealth”, by examining Statistics Canada data from 1980 to 2013. The concept of comprehensive wealth goes beyond the usual wealth measure of Gross Domestic Product and also includes natural, human and social capital. The IISD study, Comprehensive Wealth in Canada—Measuring what matters in the long run states that natural capital is the largest component of Canada’s comprehensive wealth at 80 per cent, but did not grow at all between 1980 and 2013. What does this mean for Canada? The report states: “The need for Canada to measure and understand comprehensive wealth has never been greater. Its development model is based heavily on the exploitation of natural capital, and the country cannot sustain another 30 years of natural capital depletion. Short-term commodity price volatility and the longer-term global shift to a cleaner, knowledge-driven economy mean that future reliance on fossil fuels to underpin the country’s growth is risky. The current debate about fossil fuel projects and pipelines needs, therefore, to include a vision of transformation toward a low-carbon economy.” The IISD cites a United Nations report which ranks Canada first among G7 nations in terms of the level of comprehensive wealth per capita but last in terms of growth in comprehensive wealth.
Report Highlights are at the IISD website ; the National Observer also summarized the report in “Canada’s slipping national wealth addicted to oil and gas“. A Commentary article by the report’s author Robert Smith appears as “Why Canada’s resource wealth should fuel the economy” in the Globe and Mail ROB (Dec. 7).