Mainstreaming biodiversity and ecosystems into policy through natural capital accounts in five countries
The project “Natural Capital Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services” (NCAVES) was launched in 2017 with an aim to advance both the knowledge agenda and the development of policy-applications of environmental-economic accounting, and in particular for ecosystem accounting. The project initiated pilot testing SEEA Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA EA) in five participating partner countries, namely Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa, with a view to
- Improving the measurement of ecosystems and their services (both in physical and monetary terms) at the (sub)national level;
- Mainstreaming biodiversity and ecosystems at (sub)national level policy planning and implementation;
- Contribute to the development of internationally agreed methodology and its use in partner countries.
These five countries were selected as strategic partners to the European Union, on account of the importance of their natural capital, their diverse ecosystems and biodiversity, along with their adherence to the commitments to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
The NCAVES project was funded by the European Union via a Partnership Instrument and has been jointly implemented by the United Nations Statistics Division and the United Nations Environment Programme, in collaboration with the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). (See here more about the project and below for the SEEA and the CBD) .
Video: Highlights from the NCAVES project
Main Global Impacts
Over its 5-year implementation period, the contributions of the NCAVES project have been far reaching, resulting in multi-scale impacts. These contributions and subsequent impacts include:
- The active participation and contribution of the five NCAVES countries contributed significantly to the adoption of SEEA EA as a statistical standard by the United Nations Statistical Commission in March 2021. The SEEA EA is now reflected in the UN common agenda which urges member states and others to start SEEA EA implementation.
- The resolution “Accounting for biodiversity: encompassing ecosystems, species and genetic diversity” was endorsed by the IUCN World Conservation Congress WCC-2020.
- NCAVES has contributed strongly to the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, especially in the context of the work package on Indicators; SEEA implementation is now recognized as SDG indicator 15.9.1.
- NCAVES project sustainability has been key. One concrete outcome of the project in this regard is that the UN Committee of Experts on Environmental-Economic Accounting has formed a subgroup to align public and private sector natural capital accounting efforts, chaired by an NCAVES pilot country - Mexico.
- The NCAVES project helped establish the African Community of Practice on Natural Capital Accounting.
Key Country Highlights
NCAVES in Brazil has:
- Compiled a range of ecosystem accounts and studies at the national level including ecosystem extent accounts, biodiversity/species accounts, environmental and economic accounts for water and ecosystem condition accounts;
- The ecosystem extent and endangered species accounts in Brazil featured prominently in national newspapers and on primetime news on television;
- Developed a cross-walk between the IUCN Global Ecosystem Typology and IBGE’s land and ecosystem extent accounts
- Assessed a range of ecosystem services for the Matopiba region.
For Brazil country findings, see here.
NCAVES in China has:
- Compiled pilot ecosystem accounts in the two Chinese provinces of Guangxi in Guizhou using the SEEA EA framework;
- Undertaken a scenario-based analysis of Ecological Compensation Standard in the Xijiang Basin;
- Conducted research on the valuation method of the Natural Resource Balance Sheet;
- Contributed towards the alignment between the SEEA and China’s Gross Ecosystem Product (GEP).
For China's country findings, see here.
NCAVES in India has:
- Initiated an annual publication on environmental-economic accounting;
- Compiled a range of ecosystem accounts (extent; condition, ecosystem services) and studies at the national level;
- Developed a suite of pilot ecosystem accounts for Karnataka state and applied them in policy scenario analysis;
- Developed an Economic Valuation Tool used for environmental impact assessments as well as for environmental accounting.
- Organized a 3-day multi-stakeholder NCAVES India National Forum, with participation of three Indian ministers, the UN Chief Economist, the Executive Director of UNEP, the Executive Secretary of CBD and more than 1000 participants.
For India's country findings, see here.
NCAVES in Mexico has:
- Compiled a national land and ecosystem extent accounts, national ecosystem condition accounts, ecosystem service supply accounts (including carbon storage and sequestration; provisioning of crops; water supply and pollination services);
- Quantified 4 policy scenarios using the Integrated Economic-Environmental Modelling platform of the Inter-American Development Bank;
- Developed a NCA roadmap that recommend to establish a cross-sectoral group within the SNIEG - Mexico's National System of Statistical and Geographical Information) for Natural Capital Accounting.
For Mexico's country findings, see here.
NCAVES in South Africa has:
- Published the first systematic national-level view of how South African land cover classes have shifted over time, over space and across themes- and how this interplays with the country's terrestrial ecosystems;
- Released thematic accounts for protected areas as well as compiled species accounts for rhinoceros and cycads;
- Compiled and published a comprehensive suite of experimental ecosystem services accounts in physical and monetary terms for the province of KwaZulu-Natal;
- Conducted policy scenario analysis finding that reversing land degradation would lead to economic gains, by applying the KZN ecosystem service accounts;
- Developed a ten-year strategy for advancing Natural Capital Accounting in South Africa that was adopted on 3 June 2021.
For South Africa's country findings, see here.
Key Global Workstream Highlights
Guidelines and methodology:
- A guideline has been developed for biophysical modelling and an interim technical report for valuation of ecosystem services and assets.
- A technical report on Policy Scenario analysis using SEEA Ecosystem Accounts has also been produced.
- Development of a tool, called the ARIES for SEEA Explorer, for rapid compilation of SEEA EA accounts, using an artificial intelligence driven platform for integration of data and models.
- An assessment was done of the linkages between global indicator initiatives, SEEA Modules and the SDG Targets (2019). The journal Nature published an editorial on the post-2020 biodiversity framework (2 Feb 2020) that explicitly referred to the outcome of the assessment.
- National NCAVES country assessments were undertaken of linkages between national indicator initiatives, SEEA Modules and the SDG Targets (2021).
- A technical guideline on Using the SEEA EA for Calculating Selected SDG Indicators was produced to support the NCAVES countries to test the generation of a selected set of SDG indicators using the SEEA.
- The results of the country testing were summarized in a report.
- A business consultation and literature review were undertaken.
- Based on these, a roadmap towards alignment between SEEA and private sector natural capital accounting has been developed.
- Under the methodology component of the roadmap, two pilot studies (Spain) and (India) have been undertaken.
- A knowledge base with publications on SEEA and NCA was established.
- A quarterly SEEA News and Notes newsletter was initiated.
- A range of communication products have been developed, such as flyers; brochures; policy briefs; and videos.
Enhanced capacity building and knowledge sharing:
- Various regional and national training workshops have been held e-Learnings on valuation and scenario analysis have been developed.
SEEA and the CBD
Our collective global challenge of addressing biodiversity loss has been one of the main motivations for the project.
As the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 is reaching its end, negotiations are underway for the creation of a new global biodiversity framework under the auspices of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The post-2020 global biodiversity framework is scheduled for completion at the Conference of Parties (COP-15), to be held in Kunming, China in October 2021 and April 2022.
The SEEA is well-positioned to support this framework as it focuses on measuring ecosystem diversity, their extent, condition and services generated. This also helps to make the case for protecting and conserving biodiversity by providing a full picture of its connection to the economy. More specifically, the information generated by the SEEA can be used to inform biodiversity policies in an integrated manner and develop indicators for monitoring progress toward the biodiversity target. See more about SEEA and biodiversity here.