South African Natural Capital Accounting Assessment Now Available

The national assessment report for advancing environmental-economic accounting in South Africa is now available. Prepared as part of the Natural Capital Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services (NCAVES) project, the Assessment Report reviews the state of natural capital accounting in South Africa’s in terms of policy priorities, country interests, data availabilities, existing initiatives, statistical infrastructure and operations, relevant stakeholders and capacities for the SEEA implementation.

This report will be used as in input to and guide the development of a national strategy for advancing NCA in South Africa through strengthened statistical systems and production processes. It was jointly prepared by SANBI and Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), with financial support from the European Union.

This Assessment Report includes:

  • Background on NCA;
  • The assessment itself, which covers: South Africa’s commitments to sustainable development; policies and frameworks related to national statistical systems; key stakeholders in the institutional setting; relevant institutional mechanisms; information and knowledge; and capacity needed to do accounts;
  • Recommendations for a national strategy for advancing NCA in South Africa. Recommendations are made as to the form and institutional home of such a strategy, the process of developing it and its content.

The report notes that South Africa’s policy context provides a strong foundation for mainstreaming NCA into policy and implementation in South Africa, adding that the imperative of measuring progress towards achieving global and national commitments to sustainable development is driving demand for standardised, robust and official statistics. Natural capital accounting is fully aligned with South Africa’s commitment  to evidence-based policy and decision-making and NCA provides another important source of statistical information that adds to the richness of evidence available to policy and decision-makers.

Among the many recommendations in the assessment are that the development of a national strategy should be led by Stats SA as the country’s national statistical office with a lead role to play in implementing the SEEA. The process of developing the strategy must necessarily be collaborative, given the inherently multidisciplinary nature of NCA and the large number of stakeholders involved.

The report also highlights the importance of identifying clear priorities for the development of accounts. Prioritisation of potential accounts should be based on a combination of factors, including policy applications/questions, technical feasibility and stakeholder input.

Figure 9. Priority natural capital accounts should be identified through consideration of a combination of policy applications, stakeholder input and technical feasibility. (p. 50)

The product of extensive stakeholder engagement, the report contains many other recommendations, as well as in-depth discussion of the opportunities for NCA to inform policymaking in South Africa, a history of NCA in South Africa, and a summary of key data sets that could be used in ecosystem accounting.

Background on South Africa in NCAVES

South Africa is taking part in an innovative multi-year project to advance the theory and practice of ecosystem accounting, joining four other countries – China, India, Mexico and South Africa – as part of the NCAVES project, supported by the European Union.  The goal of the project is to advance the theory and practice of ecosystem accounting, producing tangible, on-the-ground improvements and generating valuable experience to inform the development of accounts across the globe. It initiates pilot testing of the SEEA Experimental Ecosystem-Accounting (SEEA EEA) with a view to:

  • Improving the measurement of ecosystems and their services (both in physical and monetary terms) at the (sub)national level;
  • Mainstreaming biodiversity and ecosystems at (sub)national level policy planning and implementation;
  • Contribute to the development of internationally agreed methodology and its use in partner countries.

In South Africa, various types of ecosystem accounts are expected to be compiled, including ecosystem service accounts for KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province, and ecosystem extent accounts at the national level.