While Canada is blessed with a rich endowment of natural resources, and a relatively small population, we still face significant, and growing, problems of biodiversity loss and natural resource depletion. Remedying these problems, and using our natural capital more productively, is essential to ensure an ecologically and economically healthy future.

The good news is that in addressing the challenge of conserving our natural wealth, policymakers have a powerful and proven tool readily at their disposal. Economic instruments (EIs) can provide incentives to maintain ecosystems and the services they provide in a cost-effective manner. Such instruments can harness the economic self-interests of individuals, corporations and communities to conserve biodiversity.

They can encourage environmentally friendly practices, boost green technology and innovation, and discourage resource waste and inefficiency – without harming (and potentially enhancing) competitiveness. And they can be applied in a wide range of ecosystem settings – from private woodlots and ranches, to public forests and downtown neighbourhoods.

There is a growing need for a Canadian dialogue on the role market-based approaches could play in helping us to better manage natural capital and conserve biodiversity – to become wiser stewards of the natural wealth hidden in our forests, wetlands, farms, lakes and cities, and to build a greener, stronger economy.