Across the developing world, reducing levels of poverty and protecting natural environments are closely connected challenges, reflected in the concept of the Poverty-Environment Nexus (PEN). However, institutional efforts to address these challenges remain largely unconnected. For example, poverty initiatives may respond to the loss of local water quality by arranging for transportation of potable water. But in the long run, the only sustainable way to raise the living standards of people in affected communities is to address the environmental factors underlying the decline in water quality.
The United Nations Poverty-Environment Initiative (PEI) (http://www.unpei.org) seeks to address the need for better integration of work on environmental protection and poverty reduction across international agencies, INGOs and governments. PEI research has determined fundamental principles to guide more effective and more integrated policy and investment decision making. The challenge now, is to create shared frameworks for data collection, analysis and reporting that will guide and enable application of these principles across the range of institutional initiatives.
The PEI engaged IDEEA Group to integrate PEN insights into a SEEA aligned data collection, analysis and reporting framework. Through publication of the Poverty-Environment Accounting Framework (PEAF) Working Paper IDEEA Group is helping to engage stakeholders from all areas involves in poverty and environment to bring them into alignment for data collection, investment analysis and reporting at the local level.
The key building block of the PEAF is application of the SEEA’s small-scale spatial units as the integration point for data relating to different aspects of the PEN. This approach enables spatial location of key areas of environmental risk and opportunities for improvement, linking them directly to patterns of land and water use that affect the capacity of ecosystems in each location to sustainably deliver services to poor and vulnerable populations.
By linking local changes in the condition and extent of environmental assets to local changes in poverty, PEAF provides a new way forward to meet the complex challenges arising from pursuit the of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
PEAF creates an opportunity to improve current approaches to poverty measurement by linking poverty indicators to underlying environmental factors. The newly derived indicators can be used to better target regional and sub-national development policies, programmes and projects.
PEAF will also serve as a decision-support tool to assess the performance of public policies and private investments. Macro-level policy makers can use PEAF as a globally standardized way to anticipate and assess micro-level impacts on people and the environment and hence make smarter investments in reducing poverty and improving the environment.