2019 Forum of Experts on SEEA Experimental Ecosystem Accounting

The 2019 Forum of Experts on SEEA Experimental Ecosystem Accounting took place from 26 to 27 June 2019 in Glen Cove, New York. The Forum gathered 115 participants from 42 countries and several regional and international organizations to discuss topics related to ecosystem accounting, biodiversity and country implementation of the SEEA Experimental Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA-EEA). The revision of the SEEA-EEA was front and center at the meeting.

United Nations Assistant Secretary General and Chief Economist, Elliott Harris, welcomed the participants via video message, noting that  the revision “cannot come at a more critical juncture.  With the threat of climate change, biodiversity loss, environmental degradation and their economic and social impacts, policymakers need credible comparable and integrated information” to support key global initiatives like the 2030 Agenda and post-2020 global biodiversity framework.

Notably, the Forum featured a keynote speech by Sir Bob Watson, the former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). Watson outlined the findings of IPBES’s landmark biodiversity assessment released in May and emphasized the importance of biodiversity and ecosystem services to the global development agenda. “When you start to lose … ecosystem services,” said Watson, “they start to affect every one of the SDGs.

The agenda of the 2-day Forum allowed for ample presentations in plenary sessions on biophysical modeling, scenario analysis and wealth accounting, as well as broad discussions in breakout groups centered around the revision’s four research areas—spatial units, ecosystem condition, ecosystem services and valuation. The Forum allowed experts who worked on discussion papers in support of the SEEA-EEA revision to present and discuss their findings and how these relate to practical examples in various countries.

The nearly 120 participants at the 2019 Forum of Experts in Glen Cove, NY pose for a group photo at the end of the Forum.

Following the Forum of Experts, a smaller group of 60 experts participated in the Technical Expert Meeting on the revision of the SEEA EEA 2019. This meeting brought together technical experts that have been intimately involved in the SEEA EEA revision process to further discuss and advance the four research issues, spatial units, ecosystem condition, ecosystem services and valuation. The 2-day meeting allowed for in-depth discussions in break-out groups centered around the four research areas and other cross-cutting issues important to the revision. The meeting resulted in a detailed plan on how to move forward with the SEEA EEA revision during the rest of the year.