2020 Virtual Forum on SEEA Experimental Ecosystem Accounting

The fifth edition of the Forum of Experts on SEEA Experimental Ecosystem Accounting is taking place virtually this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Virtual Forum of Experts is taking place in four separate virtual sessions. The first and second sessions took place on 23-24 June and on 14-15 July 2020 on the topics of ecosystem extent and condition and valuation, respectively.  The next session, focusing on ecosystem services, will take place on 24-25 August 2020.

The first two sessions of the Virtual Forum brought together more than 150 experts each, from the statistical, geospatial and scientific communities from national statistics offices, governmental agencies and research institutions from over 38 countries. 

Issues related to ecosystem extent and condition were discussed during the first session. Mr. Stefan Schweinfest, Director of the United Nations Statistics Division, addressed the participants outlining the need for national statistical offices to provide timely and policy relevant data which is spatially disaggregated and integrated within the official statistics. The time is right for the statistical community to develop the statistical framework to measure the contribution of the ecosystems to well- being systematically as part of the regular programme of official statistics”, Mr. Schweinfest remarked.

Virtual breakout groups were used to allow in-depth discussions and exchanges between the participants. Using this format, ten countries presented their results on testing ecosystem extent and condition accounts, followed by discussion and feedback provided by participants. In addition, detailed discussions took place on technical issues identified through the global consultation on the draft Chapters 3-5 (https://seea.un.org/content/global-consultation-individual-chapters).

The second session of the Virtual Forum was held at the critical juncture, when the four chapters on valuation and accounting treatments were submitted for a broad global consultation. The audience of this session mostly comprised of environmental economists and participants from the statistical community interested in valuation.

The Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development and Chief Economist of the United Nations, Mr. Elliot Harris,  opened the Virtual Forum session on valuation, delivering an inspiring keynote speech in which he strongly supported the development of an integrated statistical framework for natural capital accounting as a way to move closer to “an integrated approach to policymaking consistent with the three dimensions for sustainable development”.  On the mainstreaming of such a framework for economic recovery from the COVID-19 shutdown,  Mr. Harris said “We have a way and opportunity to recover our economies in a different way—to recover in a way that takes the environment into account”.

During this session, five case studies from China, the Netherlands, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the European Union were presented outlining their approach for valuing selected ecosystem services. The second day offered the opportunity to discuss the five most important outstanding issues related to the valuation of ecosystem services. As such, the Virtual Forum provided a platform to find a balance between the different approaches on valuation of ecosystem services and continuing to address concerns as part of the research agenda.

This Virtual Forum was organized by the United Nations Statistics Division in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Bank, as an activity under the “Natural Capital Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services” project funded by the European Union.

Presentations and more information here https://seea.un.org/events/virtual-expert-forum-seea-experimental-ecosystem-accounting-2020