Last month, the UN Statistical Commission adopted a groundbreaking statistical framework that enables countries to measure their natural capital and better understand the immense contributions of nature to our prosperity. “No longer will we allow mindless environmental destruction to be considered as economic progress,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres declared at the time.
With the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) - Ecosystem Accounting adopted, now is the time to implement it, at scale.
The SEEA Ecosystem Accounting framework not only identifies the changes in ecosystems, their health and the vital services they provide to humans, but also pin-points them on the map. It is this spatial approach that makes the framework so valuable, but at the same time, complex. By integrating geospatial and statistical data, ecosystem accounts help ensure that policies are well-informed by data and targeted towards areas where they are needed. At the same time, a spatial approach requires vast amounts of data.
Enter artificial intelligence, or AI for short. For more than a year, experts from the UN DESA’s Statistics Division have been working with the UN Environment Programme and researchers at the Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3) to develop a tool that harnesses artificial intelligence and global data sets to make the titanic task of measuring natural capital easier.
On 29 April 2021, the UN and BC3 will launch the first open-source tool for rapid natural capital accounting, called ARIES for SEEA Explorer. With a powerful “mind of its own”, the ARIES Explorer will be able to identify the best available models and data sources to generate ecosystem accounts for any region, be it a country, a county or a watershed.
This technology is a gamechanger for ecosystem accounts, which can be difficult to produce in countries where data and specific technical know-how are scarce. For example, India was able to model carbon storage in Andhra Pradesh – a state more than twice the size of Czech Republic – in a matter of minutes by using the Explorer.
ARIES for SEEA will be available on the UN Global Platform: a cloud-service environment supporting international collaboration among countries by sharing scientific knowledge, data, methods and technology.
For more information, please explore the links below.
Details about the launch event on 29 April: https://seea.un.org/events/aries-seea-launch
ARIES for SEEA homepage: https://seea.un.org/content/aries-for-seea
SEEA Ecosystem Accounting homepage: https://seea.un.org/ecosystem-accounting
UN Global Platform: https://unstats.un.org/bigdata/un-global-platform.cshtml