The G20 summit in Turkey, organized on 15–16 November, 2015, focused on global economy, sustainable growth, development and climate change. In addition, the fight against terrorism dominated the discussions. Although these may look as separate agendas, they are all interlinked with the complex network of factors impacting our quality of life. In fact, an unsolved local crisis can extend to complex global crises, and monitoring of these global issues is based on contemporary statistics.
Natural resources are elements of wellbeing
The traditional GDP (gross national product) is a limited measure of wellbeing. In fact, access to material and immaterial natural resources plays an increasingly dominant role in wellbeing. The quality of life is affected by the dynamics of population age structure and youth unemployment, access to education and health care, access to natural resources and water, as well as with clarity of ownership of land. Natural resources such as oil and phosphate can be measured through economic value and environmental effects, but the impact of greener natural resources have also immaterial impacts that are relevant but hard to measure in a generally agreed manner.
The forthcoming strategy of agricultural statistics in the European Statistical System aims to increase the relevance of statistics in monitoring food security, sustainability and greening of agriculture. The programs for forestry statistics have not yet been challenged to the same extent. In addition, the forestry statistics do not have similar international nor European legal frameworks as the agriculture and fishery statistics do.
Access to natural resources is the key
Although the value of immaterial output of forests is proportionally minor in comparison to the material output of forestry industries in a Northern-European context, it is an important aspect of wellbeing. Forestry has a significant impact on GDP and foreign trade in Finland, where the commercial forests cover a large proportion of land.
A potential eye-opener in many global crises can be found from well-functioning local solutions. The Northern European legal framework on sustainable use of natural resources could be seen as one element in the package of solving and preventing complex political crisis.
The importance of a legal framework and infrastructure on sustainable use of natural resources increases as the resources become scarce. Let us take the example of access to the water. Access to water resources is essential for irrigation on agricultural fields. Restricted access to limited water reserves will have an impact on food security and health and is a source of local conflicts.
Extending the GDP to green GDP gives us more scope in comparing and understanding the diversity of countries. The OECD’s quality of life indicators also include environmental quality as a dimension of wellbeing. The statistical framework exists in theory, but we are lacking data from many areas – therefore cross-cutting co-operation is needed. At Luke, we have excellence in research focusing on conflicts on natural resources – this knowledge should be utilized in developing the statistical framework further in the global agenda.
Greening forestry statistics
At Luke’s statistical service, we have launched a development programme of forestry statistics for the modernizing forestry sector. We have a special project aiming to develop statistics on the immaterial impacts and eco-system services of the forests. We hope that the project will provide useful results for modernizing the framework of forestry statistics internationally for the green GDP and environmental accounts, and thus improving statistics of the quality of life.