Mainstreaming biodiversity and ecosystem services into policy through natural capital accounting
Brazil is taking part in an innovative multi-year project to advance the theory and practice of ecosystem accounting. It joins four other countries - China, India, Mexico and South Africa - as part of the Natural Capital Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services (NCAVES) project, funded by European Union, and implemented by the United Nations Statistics Division, in collaboration with UN Environment TEEB office and the secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
Brazil's natural capital
The fifth largest country in terms of land-mass, Brazil is the world’s most biodiverse, home to the world’s largest tropical rain forest and 13% of the world’s freshwater resources. These natural resources are under intense pressure from economic growth, fueled by increased demand for commodities. Brazil is one of the world’s largest producers of soybean, iron ore, cellulose products, sugar cane, corn, coffee and, meat. This economic success has come with an ecological cost; for example, the country’s Atlantic Forest region has lost more than 70% of its original cover. The loss of forest and rise of monoculture farming practices (especially of soybean, corn and sugar cane) degrade such economically essential ecosystem services as water availability, soil fertility, nutrient cycling, biological pest control, and the regulation of soils and pollination.
Brazil has institutionalized a strong environmental ethic within its legal framework and government action has resulted in a remarkable 75% reduction in the rate of deforestation in recent years. Still, difficulties associated with enforcement and economic imperatives mean that around 6,200 km2 of forest are lost each year.
The SEEA in Brazil
Brazil has been one of the pioneers in beginning compilation of System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) accounts in South America. The Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) has made important advances in land cover and compiles land cover and use accounts every two years.
Additionally, the IBGE, the National Water Agency (ANA) and the Ministry of Environment as part of the GIZ funded regional-local TEEB project have a pillar on Natural capital accounting in which they have compiled the country’s first ever water accounts. These accounts provide important information on water usage and water efficiency. Currently work is ongoing in developing energy accounts and forest accounts.
In 2017, a law requiring the calculation of Green Domestic Product in Brazil was enacted. The legislation requires the IBGE to calculate the Green Domestic Product of Brazil, which includes the valuation of national ecological capital. The legislation stipulates that the computation of Green Domestic Product must be aligned with the SEEA, as the international standard for measuring the environment and its relationship with the economy.
Project goals and activities
The activities of the European Union-funded Natural Capital Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services Project in Brazil will include:
- Compilation of pilot ecosystem accounting following the SEEA EEA approach in the Matopiba region, in particular the Rio Grande river basin. The project will analyse a number of ecosystem services such as water flow regulation and soil retention (erosion control) using the SWAT model. This area has been selected because of the rapid agricultural development it is experiencing with accompanying land use change and impacts on ecosystems, as well as its diversity of landscapes. The federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) jointly with IBGE is implementing this pilot project.
- Development of a national plan for advancing and implementing the SEEA in the context of the recently adopted Green GDP law on the basis of an assessment of activities and initiatives related to environmental-economic accounting.