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2014-11-28 | News

Ecosystems in focus for research collaboration in 8 EfD countries

Jessica Alvsilver, environmental economist at the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, EPA.

In decision making all over the globe there tends to be a disregard of the contribution that ecosystem services make to human wellbeing. Eight EfD Centers are the key implementing partners in the new Ecosystem Service Accounting for Development program, a collaboration between the Environment for Development initiative (EfD), the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Wealth Accounting and the Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES).

Today, unrecognized or underpriced ecosystem services lead to overexploitation of and widespread disappearance of ecosystems and habitats around the globe, as the benefits of these services are overlooked in development decisions. Ecosystem accounting is a way to address this failure as it aims to integrate ecosystem services and ecosystem capital in the System of National Accounts (SNA).

The new Sida-funded program Ecosystem Service Accounting for Development (ESAforD) aims to contribute to more sustainable decision-making by enhancing the methodology in the valuation of ecosystem services.

”The result of the program is highly demanded at a global policy level,” says Jessica Alvsilver, environmental economist at the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, EPA.

Jessica Alvsilver presented the idea of how the empirical work will be carried out in eight countries, South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Costa Rica, Chile, China and Sweden, when she attended the third annual meeting of the Policy and Technical Experts Committee of WAVES, Wealth Accounting and the Valuation of Ecosystem Services, https://www.wavespartnership.org/en/policy-and-technical-expert-committee-third-annual-meeting held October 29-31, 2014, in Washington DC.

The guidelines for ecosystem service accounting is still in an experimental phase and encourages research that test and develop the methodology in the valuation of ecosystem services for accounting purposes.

Jessica Alvsilver also attended the last EfD annual meeting in Dar es Salaam, when the program, ESAforD, was initiated by a workshop with the purpose to narrow down the research question to address for the empirical work to be carried out in the EfD countries.

"The outcome was to address the challenge of scaling up the value of ecosystem services to national level. The proposed empirical approach was to do value transfer validity testing in a multisite, multicountry setting. Further it was decided to restrict the analysis to regulating services."

EfD Sweden at the University of Gothenburg and the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency will together with the EfD Centers in different countries design and carry out the empirical work in the respective center countries that can improve the methodology in ecosystem service valuation.

The researchers that will be recruited for the program will form the core working group in the program. They will meet regularly, report and present their findings. More importantly they will simultaneously carry out empirical work designed to experiment in a way that can improve the understanding of the valuation of ecosystem services for accounting purposes.

By Karin Backteman

Ecosystem Service Accounting
Ecosystem Service Accounting is defined as “an approach to the assessment of the environment through the measurement of ecosystems, and measurement of the flows of services from ecosystems into economic and other human activity” (The System of Environmental-Economic Accounting Experimental Ecosystem Accounting guidelines, European Commission, 2013).

WAVES
Wealth Accounting and the Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES) is a global partnership that aims to promote sustainable development by ensuring that the national accounts used to measure and plan for economic growth include the value of natural resources.  Besides developed and developing countries who are implementing environmental accounting, WAVES partners include UN agencies, such as UNEP, UNDP, UNSD, non-governmental organizations, and academic institutions. The Policy and Technical Experts Committee (PTEC) within WAVES leverages knowledge and experiences from all partners identifying opportunities to contribute to mainstreaming. Specifically, PTEC has been established to guide the development and implementation of scientifically credible methodologies for ecosystem accounting, to oversee the compilation of evidence on the policy applications and impacts of environmental accounts; and to guide the development of training materials on environmental accounts and implementation of capacity development efforts in WAVES countries.  The methodology on ecosystem accounting developed by PTEC in collaboration with other organizations will serve as input to the Handbook for the System of Environmental and Economic Accounting (SEEA), Volume 2 on Ecosystem Accounting.  PTEC is coordinating closely with the UN Statistics Division (UNSD) to achieve this outcome.