Learning about Environmental Accounting in Australia

From left to right: Jeremiah Sokan (GDSA Focal Point, Liberia), Disikalala Gaseitsiwe (GDSA Deputy Executive Secretary, Botswana) and Kwame Boakye Fredua (Environmental Protection Agency, Ghana) enjoying the beauty of nature in one of the parks near Canberra, Australia, after successfully completing the course.

From left to right: Jeremiah Sokan (GDSA Focal Point, Liberia), Disikalala Gaseitsiwe (GDSA Deputy Executive Secretary, Botswana) and Kwame Boakye Fredua (Environmental Protection Agency, Ghana) enjoying the beauty of nature in one of the parks near Canberra, Australia, after successfully completing the course.

Written by Kwame Boakye Fredua, Environmental Protection Agency-Ghana

Editor's Note: In December 2016, the Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa (GDSA) Secretariat, together with Conservation International, provided the opportunity for three government officials to travel to Australia and participate in a short course on Environmental Accounting. This opportunity is one of several that will be afforded to GDSA member countries in the coming year, as the GDSA hopes to increase technical capacity on Natural Capital Accounting. Here, Mr. Kwame Boakye Fredua from the Environment Protection Agency in Ghana, shares his experience of participating in this course. 

Environmental Accounting has been recognized as an important tool for evidence-based policy making on the role of nature toward sound economic planning and development. It can be a useful and an effective tool for monitoring and reporting country-level progress on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and other aligned sustainability indicators.  

In June this year, the Conservation International (CI) and the Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa (GDSA) Secretariat in partnership with the World Bank's Wealth Accounting and the Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES) programme brought together government officials and technical experts from GDSA member countries in Kenya for a workshop on natural capital accounting

One of the key outcomes of the meeting was to facilitate the development of a Natural Capital Accounting (NCA) Community of Practice. As part of this Community of Practice, I was selected as one of three government representatives selected from respective GDSA member countries (i.e. Botswana, Liberia, and Ghana) to undertake a 5-day short course in environmental accounting organized by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in partnership with the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia.

Course presenters included experts from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Australian National University, the Department of Environment and Energy, and the National Australian Bank.  The content of the course focused on the key concepts in environmental accounting (EA), concepts and tools in national accounting, the use of EA information in public policy, valuation in EA, water accounting, land accounting, implementing the System of Economic and Environmental Accounting (SEEA), ecosystem accounting, energy and greenhouse gas accounting, and waste and environmental expenditure accounting.

Individual and group exercises as well as a field trip were part of the programme. This allowed participants to practically apply the concepts and further enhancing understanding of the accounts.

Generally, it was a good opportunity to network with experts and account managers/professionals in the field of environmental accounting. The programme was also very timely, relevant, and would facilitate studies and activities initiated in Ghana to operationalize Natural Capital Accounting within our environment and national statistical agencies. 

  From left to right: Jeremiah, Disikalala and Kwame in the classroom. The course was held at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia.

 
From left to right: Jeremiah, Disikalala and Kwame in the classroom. The course was held at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia.

Amongst others, lessons learnt from participating in the short course in environmental accounting include the need to complement current economic accounting standards like the System of National Accounts (SNA). This is important because the current SNA does not explicitly include or account for physical stocks and flows of natural capital, linkages with sustainability assessments for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and inclusive green growth. This information can assist in identifying environmental issues, regular review of existing policies, and track progress on their interventions.

More information on the GDSA Community of Practice can be found here. Watch Kwame speak about why natural capital accounting is important for Ghana in a video produced by the GDSA, Conservation International, and the WAVES partnership.