The OECD calls for improved Environmental-Economic Accounting in Australia

The OECD have called for advancements to be made in environmental monitoring and evaluation in Australia. In the third Environmental Performance Review of Australia, the OECD provides 50 recommendations to help Australia better manage its environment. The recommendations relate to climate change, waste, water, biodiversity and chemical management, environmental governance and management, and green growth.

The report contains recommendations for improving specific environmental-economic accounts and calls for the use of environmental-economic accounts in government budget documents. There are further recommendations relating to measuring and monitoring the environment, and the evaluation of environmental outcomes more generally.

Where such recommendations are made, the principles of environmental-economic accounting can be employed. The principles provide a common approach to measurement that facilitates comparison and aggregation across different spatial scales. The accounts can be used to improve decision making, transparency and compliance, and help to build positive perceptions of the environment.

The recommendations are a timely message from the OECD given the issues we are currently experiencing in the Murray Darling Basin. Perhaps better accounting for our environmental assets and water could help prevent future catastrophes.

Supporting the business case – why members of the Alliance for Water Stewardship should adopt the SEEA as a measurement and evaluation tool

A strong, robust evidence base that is easily shared and communicated between stakeholders is critical to support the objectives of the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS). Communicating the impacts of AWS certification to public sector agencies, green investors and philanthropists has the potential to generate benefits to implementers that will enhance the business case for water stewardship.

During 2018 IDEEA Group built on past work with the AWS to demonstrate the practical application of the System of Environmental Economic Accounts in two of China’s industrial parks. The project report finds that there is great potential for the adoption of environmental-economic accounting but also underlines the importance of working with local experts who have access to data and local knowledge. IDEEA Group Director, Carl Obst, presented this work at the October AWS Global Conference in Edinburgh.

IDEEA Group will continue to work with the AWS in 2019 and beyond. By building a common language that is easily understood by all AWS stakeholders, we hope to provide a basis for collaboration and maximise the benefits of AWS water stewardship. Stay tuned!

Out with the old and in with the new – extending the production boundary of GDP to account for ecosystem services

It is widely understood that GDP, as a measure of economic activity, fails to recognise the depletion or degradation of natural capital. A key feature of national accounting (which underpins GDP) is the recording of transactions between economic units, households, business and government. However, it does not recognise transactions between economic units and the environment. The environment provides services to economic units, often referred to as ecosystem services. Accounting for ecosystem services is required to bring measures of the depreciation and degradation of natural capital in line with measures of the deprecation of built capital that is already included in GDP.

While the generic concept of ecosystem services provides an excellent platform for discussion, the ongoing lack of clarity surrounding the definition, classification and measurement of ecosystem services, is a barrier to collaboration across disciplines and its inclusion in measures of GDP.

Our paper applies the principles of national accounting to bring additional rigour and consistency to the discussion on ecosystem services. The key outcome of the paper is a framework for describing the relationship between ecosystems and economic activity that can be used to consistently define, classify, measure and account for ecosystem services.

Mark Eigenraam & Carl Obst (2018) Extending the production boundary of the System of National Accounts (SNA) to classify and account for ecosystem services, Ecosystem Health and Sustainability, DOI: 10.1080/20964129.2018.1524718

Combining Forces – Natural Capital Coalition

Natural capital has both private and public dimensions that are reflected in different perceptions, management and decision-making approaches. These differences often lead to overuse and poor management of natural capital – often referred to as the tragedy of the commons – at both global and local scales.

A key feature of the differences between public and private approaches to natural capital concerns the language that is used to describe and discuss the relevant environmental stocks and flows. Central to improving the management of natural capital is having a common language to define, measure and report on it.

There is now an opportunity to combine forces natural capital thinking and assessment, leverage the strength of the support from the public and private sectors for two key approaches, the Natural Capital Protocol (NCP) and the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) and seek to understand the opportunities and synergies of these approaches both with each other and with the wide range of other approaches in this space.

This workshop is one part of a broader program of work to engage widely on the subject of natural capital. The primary objectives are to:

  • Broaden the understanding of the breadth of different approaches to natural capital
  • Establish the benefits that might be obtained from combining forces on natural capital
  • Identify the barriers to combining private and public sector approaches to natural capital thinking and assessment
  • Identify opportunities and activities that can be undertaken in the short to medium term to overcome those barriers and demonstrate the benefits of combining forces to both the public and private sector.

Workshop participants are encouraged to visit the Natural Capital Coalition’s Combining Forces page for additional background and resources, especially concerning the potential linkages between NCP and SEEA.

Linking Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) and the SEEA

Around the world there are tremendous challenges surrounding the use and management of water resources. The Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) was established in 2008 to promote the stewardship of water resources, and in 2014 they released the first International Water Stewardship Standard. It is premised on the idea that improved management of water resources must be context driven, i.e. considering site (farm) and catchment level issues and solutions.

In the wake of the advancements in the development of the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA), AWS saw an opportunity to use an internationally comparable measurement approach as the basis for measurement and transparency in the implementation of the AWS Standard. To this end, AWS engaged IDEEA Group to describe the potential ways in which the SEEA could be applied in the six steps of the AWS Standard.

This introductory report outlines a variety of ways in which the SEEA could support implementation including; ensuring coherence of data across scales and enabling site; catchment and administrative level narratives can be aligned; and providing a common language for the communication and framing of management responses and outcomes. The report identifies seven key benefits from linking the AWS Standard and the SEEA and recommends undertaking case studies to demonstrate the potential opportunities for firms, catchment managers, industry and sector leaders.

Access the report here

 

 

Natural Capital Protocol – System of Environmental Economic Accounting Toolkit

This draft Toolkit which examines the links between the Natural Capital Protocol (NCP) and the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) is intended to form the basis for a discussion about the ways in which these two tools for natural capital accounting (NCA) might be combined to further support advances in this important area of work. The Toolkit focuses specifically on placing the accounting framework and approach of the SEEA within the broader natural capital assessment process articulated in the NCP.

The Toolkit was a discussion paper for a workshop titled “Combining forces on Natural Capital” held in London on 31 August, 2017. The workshop was supported by the Natural Capital Coalition, Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and IDEEA Group.

Access the report here

 

 

World first species diversity accounts for Uganda

In many countries economic development threatens biodiversity. At the same time, biodiversity and the associated natural capital can provide significant opportunities for development such as through expanded wildlife based tourism and sustainable harvesting of natural products.

IDEEA Group has worked with Ugandan Government departments and the UNEP World Centre for Monitoring Conservation to create a clear and credible evidence base to understand the extent of human and economic impact on species biodiversity in Uganda. This is a world-first application of the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting – Experimental Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA-EEA) framework to compile species accounts at the national level.

The report provides significant insights into the state and trends in ecosystems and biodiversity for Uganda that will be used to assess national progress towards the objectives of Uganda’s National Development Plan (NDP II), its National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan (NBSAP II), and various international commitments (e.g. Aichi targets and SDGs). At a program and sector level, the report identifies cost-effective actions that can help to re-establish and sustain valuable natural capital assets in ways that support positive social development outcomes.

Access the report here

 

 

How can we reduce poverty while protecting the environment?

It’s long been understood that extreme poverty and environmental degradation are interrelated problems. SEEA now provides a framework for international agencies, INGOs and governments in developing countries to better understand and address this poverty-environment nexus.

Spatially integrating social, economic and environmental data enables better coordinated and geographically targeted policies and initiatives to reduce poverty and restore ecosystem health.

IDEEA Groups’ Mark Eigenraam talks about this opportunity following his presentation on the  Poverty and Environment Accounting Framework (PEAF) at UNESCAP’s Sub-Regional Workshop on Environmental Statistics for ASEAN Countries .