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  • Writer's pictureFiona Smith

UN officially adopts the SEEA-EA system as the new global standard of economic reporting

History has been made with the announcement that the United Nations has adopted the SEEA-EA (System of Environmental Economic Accounting-Ecosystem Accounting) which includes the contributions of nature when measuring economic prosperity and human well-being.

Developed by IDEEA Group's Carl Obst and pioneered in Australia by Mark Eigenraam, both of whom are part of our pilot project INCASE (Irish Natural Capital for Sustainable Environments), the system has been formally recognised as the new global standard by the UN Statistical Commission. It marks a major step in going beyond the commonly used statistic of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to ensure that natural capital - forests, wetlands and other ecosystems are recognised in economic reporting - and therefore considered when it comes to policy and planning decisions.

While GDP shows us the value of goods and services exchanged in markets, it does not reflect the dependency of the economy on nature, nor the impacts it has on nature ie the loss of a forest and all its many benefits, including biodiversity, carbon sequestration, water filtration. These could outweigh its basic timber value, even before considering factors such as recreational activity, tourism, wellbeing, educational value and other more hard-to-quantify, intrinsic values such as beauty and wonder, although SEEA will attempt to account for these too where possible.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres welcomed the adoption of the new framework, saying: “This is a historic step forward towards transforming how we view and value nature. We will no longer be heedlessly allowing environmental destruction and degradation to be considered economic progress.”

Watch this Channel 4 news report (featuring Prof Kathy Willis, director of NatCapResearch) which delves into the 'incredibly exciting' decision.

Read more on the UN decision to adopt the SEEA system here.

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