India moves beyond GDP to make nature count
How can the world take nature into account in the decision-making process, moving beyond GDP? At a recent Forum on the benefits of natural capital accounting, the Indian Government demonstrated how a new statistical framework is helping them combat environmental degradation and promote sustainability.
India is one of around 90 countries that have successfully adopted the System of Environmental Economic Accounting (SEEA) including the new framework, SEEA – Ecosystem Accounting. This framework provides policy makers with the information that makes nature and the ecosystem services it provides visible in the decision-making process. The new framework for ecosystem accounting is expected to be adopted as statistical standard by the UN Statistical Commission in March.
The forum, the Natural Capital Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services (NCAVES) India Forum 2021, was organized by the Government of India, the United Nations and the European Union with three sessions on 14, 21 and 28 of January.
“We need an integrated information system that covers all pillars of sustainability, economic, social and environmental,” said UN Chief Economist Elliott Harris, while stressing to participants how the new framework is essential for sustainable development. “The SEEA is an important step toward being able to measure these interconnections.”
The Indian Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Shri Prakash Javadekar, highlighted that the Government of India is firmly proceeding to guide the country on the path of sustainable development and looks forward to evolving a comprehensive view of the natural resources and ecosystems.
“For far too long, we have grown at the expense of nature, treating it as a resource with no limits,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme. “2020 was the year nature sent us a message – reminding us through pandemics, droughts, wildfires, hurricanes, melting glaciers, and rising temperatures – that we can no longer afford its invoices.”
Ms. Andersen underscored that it is crucial that Natural Capital Accounting be factored into monitoring frameworks for the post-2020 global biodiversity targets: “Natural Capital Accounting has an important role to play in recalibrating our relationship with nature,” she said.
While the complexity and sophistication of the framework was highlighted during the Forum, India’s experience showed that implementation is by no means insurmountable.
“India has shown us today that it does not take decades to break down information siloes. SEEA implementation can be achieved in a short period of time, and India is a shining example of this,” said Stefan Schweinfest, Director of UN DESA’s Statistics Division. It is expected that even more countries will begin to implement this new system after the new framework is adopted in March.
Photo by Vivek Doshi on Unsplash