South Africa First Natural Capital Accounting Forum
South Africa’s first-ever national Natural Capital Accounting Forum took place on 10-11 July 2019 at Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) in Pretoria. The Forum was hosted by Stats SA in partnership with the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). Leading up to the Forum a well visited NCA Seminar was held, organized by the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries.
Natural capital accounting (NCA), which brings environmental, social and economic information into an accounting framework, provides vitally needed information. Through NCA, decision makers get a clearer picture of the full extent and health of the country’s natural assets as well as the many links between the economy, ecology and environment.
The two-day National NCA Forum convened a range of stakeholders including the Departments of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF), Planning Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME), Rural Development and Land Reform, Water and Sanitation, public agencies such as South African National Parks (SANParks), as well as NGOs and the private sector.
This Forum served as an important milestone of the Natural Capital Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services project. Early highlights from South Africa’s new national land and ecosystem accounts were presented at the Forum. A major achievement has been the agreement on a basic spatial unit by South African stakeholders, which provides for combining environmental, social and economic data in a single consistent geographic framework. The Forum featured moderated panel discussions as well as break-out session allowing in depth discussion on topics such as ocean accounts, water accounts, and accounts for ecosystem services, including valuation. It also provided an opportunity to obtain feedback from participants on the way forward including the formation of a number of working groups that will work towards a national strategy for NCA. The draft national strategy will be discussed at the next stakeholder meeting to be held by March 2020.
South Africa is at the forefront of the global NCA movement. It is one of five countries (along with Brazil, China, India and Mexico) participating in an international project on natural capital accounting - the NCA and Valuation of Ecosystem Services (NCA&VES) Project. The project is co-led in South Africa by Stats SA and the SANBI, in collaboration with DEFF and global project leaders, the United Nations Statistical Division (UNSD) and UN Environment, with funding from the European Union. South Africa is the first of the pilot countries to hold a National NCA Forum.
South Africa’s NCA Forum received strong endorsement from the international community. “Natural capital accounting has been gaining a lot of traction in the past few years, and for good reason. Now, more than ever, policymakers are realizing the need to move beyond GDP and other traditional measures,” said United Nations Assistant Secretary-General Elliott Harris. “The National Forum is an important step for natural capital accounting in South Africa and a model for creating a productive dialogue on this important topic.”
With the potential for biodiversity and ecosystems to support the achievement of national development objectives in South Africa, including job creation and poverty alleviation, policy makers need credible, comparable and integrated information that can support the measurement of progress towards these goals. In addition, NCA can provide information to track South Africa’s contribution to global initiatives, including the 2030 Agenda, CBD Aichi targets and post-2020 Agenda. This event marks an important stepping-stone along the journey to mainstream NCA in South Africa.
For updates and news follow Stats SA on Twitter @StatsSA or SANBI @SANBI_ZA with the hashtag #NaturalCapitalAccounting #EcosystemAccounting. Also visit the Stats SA Website for more information