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.

African nations convene for landmark workshop to set priorities for natural capital accounting

Representatives from Conservation International, the World Bank WAVES program and 12 African nations gather together in Nairobi for the “Regional Perspectives on Natural Capital Accounting” workshop June 21-23, 2016 in Nairobi, Kenya.

Representatives from Conservation International, the World Bank WAVES program and 12 African nations gather together in Nairobi for the “Regional Perspectives on Natural Capital Accounting” workshop June 21-23, 2016 in Nairobi, Kenya.

Conservation International (CI) and the World Bank's Wealth Accounting and the Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES) program brought together government officials and technical experts from member countries of the Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa (GDSA)  for a “Regional Perspectives on Natural Capital Accounting” workshop June 21-23, 2016 in Nairobi, Kenya. Workshop participants included representatives from twelve countries, including 9 of the 10 GDSA signatory countries (Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa and Tanzania, plus supporting countries Madagascar and Uganda as well as non-member Mauritius).

Perhaps more than anywhere else, natural resources such as forests, wildlife and minerals play a crucial role in the economies of sub-Saharan Africa. In Kenya, for example, it has been estimated that the forests annually contribute ecosystem services equivalent to 3.6% of the national GDP. In Namibia, where Natural Capital Accounting has been utilized since the 1990’s, Wildlife Resource Accounts estimated that the country’s wildlife assets are valued at N$10.6 billion. As NCA gains global momentum in both the private and public sector, countries are increasingly exploring ways of mainstreaming the results of these accounts into decision making processes.  

View of Mt. Kilimanjaro from Kenya with elephants in the foreground. © Ian Lenehan/500px

View of Mt. Kilimanjaro from Kenya with elephants in the foreground. © Ian Lenehan/500px

This regional workshop on NCA — the first of its kind — capitalized on the increasing desire for information on NCA and collaboration across Africa. CI made public the results of a year-long scoping study on NCA across GDSA countries. GDSA Executive Secretary Ruud Jansen opened the meeting, saying that the main impetus for creating the GDSA was to look after African resources, and as such the need to know how to value them. He was followed by the H.E. John Moreti, the Ambassador of Botswana to Kenya, who talked about the immense benefits NCA can bring to the continent emphasizing that the the approach can help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and a number of other aims. Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, CI’s Vice President and Senior Advisor of Global Policy, used Costa Rica as a case study to highlight the catalytic need for key policy makers to “speak the same language” towards proving that environment is a productive sector. “NCA can help us take the leap forward from the industrial to the green economy, and the GDSA is a great platform for this change of institutional structures to happen,” he said.

WAVES is a global partnership that aims to mainstream Natural Capital in development planning, economic policy and decision-making in support of sustainable development. Stig Johansson, World Bank WAVES Program Manager, discussed how NCA has emerged as a response to go beyond GDP as a measure of progress and well-being. WAVES is currently working in eight countries, looking at implementation and cooperation at national, regional, and global levels.

Workshop participants shared successes and lessons learned. In a series of Case Studies, Gaborone Declaration countries Botswana, South Africa, Namibia and Rwanda presented on the successes and challenges in developing national accounts in their countries. In Botswana, for example, one of the first countries supported by WAVES, natural capital accounting is included in the keynote paper for the forthcoming National Development Plan, and water accounts have been identified as a key tool for water sector reforms. Other nations such as Ghana and Tanzania who are just beginning the NCA process were able to learn from these diverse experiences. Participants explored ways to build or enhance country programs in NCA and expressed the need to continue and expand regional engagement.  

Portia Segomelo, National Advisor for WAVES Botswana, makes a point for discussion during the "Regional Perspectives on Natural Capital Accounting” workshop.

Portia Segomelo, National Advisor for WAVES Botswana, makes a point for discussion during the "Regional Perspectives on Natural Capital Accounting” workshop.

This dynamic discussion resulted in the Gaborone Declaration Natural Capital Accounting Statement , which provides the foundation to launch an African-led Community of Practice. The statement calls upon the GDSA and partners to work to establish Community of Practice (COP) on Natural Capital Accounting “for the specific purpose of learning and sharing of approaches, experiences, and best practices in NCA among the GDSA countries via south-south exchanges, dialogue by both practitioners and decision-makers on NCA, and training opportunities as appropriate including both technical practitioners (account producers and analysts) and decision-makers (account users).”  

The workshop agenda and presentations are available on the World Bank WAVES website. For next steps: later this year, CI and WAVES will release a workshop report which will include an actionable timeline for building upon the momentum of the workshop

 

 

GDSA attends the World Bank WAVES Annual Partnership Meeting in Costa Rica

Dr. Kim Reuter of Conservation International presents at the World Bank WAVES Annual Partnership meeting in Costa Rica. Photo © the World Bank

Dr. Kim Reuter of Conservation International presents at the World Bank WAVES Annual Partnership meeting in Costa Rica. Photo © the World Bank

From May 31st to June 1st 2016, the World Bank WAVES program held its Annual Partnership Meeting in San Jose, Costa Rica. This year’s meeting was designed to bring together WAVES’ partners and highlight their cutting-edge work on natural capital accounting (NCA) as well as the work of WAVES’ Core Implementing Countries. The objectives of the meeting were to explore lessons learned from various NCA initiatives and to increase understanding of how these lessons can inform work at the global level. In addition, the meeting focused on the process of using NCA in decision-making and packaging the outputs of NCA in a way that appeals to decision-makers.

Supporting the Sustainable Development Goals and the NDC’s with natural capital accounting (NCA)

On the second day of the conference, Carlos Manuel Rodriguez – a Vice President at Conservation International and policy advisor to the Gaborone Declaration – joined Paula Caballero (Senior Director, World Bank) and representatives from Indonesia and the UNDP to discuss how NCA can help with measuring progress towards several international commitments. Carlos Manuel, who also is a former Minister of Environment for Costa Rica, articulated the challenges and opportunities that are inherent to the field of NCA. Carlos cited his own evolution as a minister who pioneered the use of ecosystem valuation in decision-making in Costa Rica. He closed by noting the importance of WAVES and related programs, such as the UNDP BIOFIN initiative, in mainstreaming ecosystem valuation and natural capital accounting into global dialogue.

The GDSA as a platform for regional collaboration on natural capital accounting

In addition to Carlos’ panel discussion, the GDSA was highlighted as one of the platforms for regional collaboration on NCA in Africa. Represented by Kim Reuter (Natural Capital Accounting Director, CI’s Africa + Madagascar Field Division), the GDSA was featured alongside the Economic Commission for Latin America & the Caribbean and the WAVES program. Topics of discussion included the importance of regional collaboration in moving NCA forward across the globe, breaking down communication barriers between countries, linking multiple partners together via regional networks, and using regional networks to scale-up WAVES work. The importance of the GDSA was re-emphasized by Portia Segomelo, WAVES Advisor for Botswana, who noted that Gaborone signatory countries are now linking their NCA initiatives to the GDSA, given its regional importance. 

Moving Forward

 WAVES will continue to play an important role across the GDSA, as three of its five global Core Implementing Countries are also Gaborone signatory countries (or otherwise affiliated with the GDSA). As such, the GDSA looks forward to supporting the work of WAVES and to ensuring the lessons learned in WAVES countries are shared across the rest of the Gaborone Declaration.