In municipalities across Canada, infrastructure is aging, capital costs are rising and service delivery is strained by growing populations. Ecosystems are in decline and climate change is exacerbating these challenges. Local governments are looking for ways to better manage their nature and the valuable ecosystem services nature provides.

One way is to include nature as an asset in financial accounts along with infrastructure like sidewalks and roads. Natural assets that provide services like flood control and water filtration haven’t been considered on equal footing or included in asset management plans — until now.

Where we are now

The Foundation is a founding member of the Municipal Natural Assets Initiative. Pilot projects across Canada are beginning to demonstrate that natural assets — like wetlands and floodplains — can be more cost-effective and resilient than conventional engineered infrastructure. They are finding less depreciation and risk and more secondary benefits from natural assets.

Local governments are seeing advantages of considering nature on equal footing with engineered assets like sidewalks and roads. For the first time, natural assets are appearing in financial accounts and asset management plans. Communities are finding a way to consider nature as a tool to prepare for climate change and the onset of more severe and intense flooding and other challenges. The hope is that an eco-assets approach will help give municipalities information to make better decisions by factoring in the value of nature.