Global efforts to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) are hindered by the way that countries value economic prosperity ahead of preserving our environment, including its biodiversity.
But a recent editorial in Nature magazine says that the way countries are tracking biodiversity is the quiet revolution that may just save the planet.
Since 2012, more and more countries have started using the United Nations System of Environmental Economic Accounting (SEEA) to measure – and account for – all components of the environment and their links to the economy and people. There are 92 countries using the SEEA at the moment, and this number is rising.
Using the SEEA to track biodiversity helps countries to meet SDG 15, target 20:
“By 2020, integrate ecosystem and biodiversity values into national and local planning, development processes, poverty reduction strategies and accounts.”
And, according to Nature, we must recognise the value that nature provides societies and economies:
“… the costs of environmental damage, such as biodiversity loss, rarely factor into countries’ official calculations of income and wealth. If anything, clearing a forest to build housing, grow crops or construct infrastructure to exploit fossil fuels is considered a net economic gain. An analysis of progress towards the 17 SDGs in 99 lower-income nations, published this year, confirms this: gains in reducing poverty and improving human welfare have come at a high price to the environment.
The current system is weighted towards destruction, not preservation.”
The article advocates for a stronger link between the SEEA and the System of National Accounts (SNA) – the international statistical standard used to measure economic activity, including for example measures of gross domestic product (GDP). If nature is viewed as an asset – and its condition, services and benefits are incorporated appropriately within measures of economic activity, the outcomes for nature can be revolutionary.
IDEEA Group is involved in the revision of the SNA that is now underway. Our Director, Carl Obst, is leading the drafting of the three new chapters for the revised SNA concerning the measurement of well-being and sustainability. The revision process is well underway with round of global consultation now commencing. The new SNA is due for adoption in March 2025.
In the meantime, we need more and more countries to come on board with the SEEA framework and get started tracking biodiversity today. A better future starts now.