Article | 08 Nov, 2022

Kenya launches implementation of UN framework for ecosystem accounting

In September 2022, a technical workshop co-organised by IUCN, the Kenya Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) and the UN Statistics Division (UNSD) kicked off the implementation of the new UN framework for ecosystem accounting. This system will provide the data needed for Kenya to understand the contributions of nature to its prosperity and the importance of protecting it.

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Photo: BIODEV2030

Supported by the BIODEV2030 project, the workshop was attended by 24 participants from different government and non-governmental organisations, who tested the globally recognised System of Environmental-Economic Accounting—Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA EA) to develop a broader assessment that will contribute to Kenya's national plan for natural capital accounting.

A framework for understanding the contributions of nature

The natural capital concept frames nature, including all its living and non-living components, as a portfolio of assets that provide a flow of benefits to people and the economy. A major step forward in natural capital assessments, the new SEEA-EA framework contains a set of internationally agreed concepts, definitions, classifications, accounting rules and tables to produce robust ecosystem accounts at a national level.

The integrated and comprehensive statistical system brings together economic and environmental information into a common framework.  It enables countries to measure the contribution of ecosystems to the country’s economy and the impact of the economy on its ecosystems. 

As such, SEEA is suggested by the Post2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) as a possible methodological basis to monitor headline indicator A.0.1 (extent of selected natural and modified ecosystems) of Goal A. To date, ecosystem accounts have already been used to inform policy-making in more than 34 countries.

Recent IUCN resolutions call for the organisation to support the implementation of SEEA and build a natural capital policy measuring principles consistent with SEEA.

The challenges of spatial modelling

SEEA EA is built on five core accounts that include ecosystem extent accounts, ecosystem condition accounts, ecosystem services physical and monetary flow accounts and monetary ecosystem asset accounts.

The framework makes it possible to organise data on the extent of ecosystems, measure ecosystem services, monitor changes in ecosystem assets and link this information to economic and other human activities with spatial modelling.

Spatial modelling of ecosystem accounts requires substantial time and expertise and can be challenging for data-limited countries. UNSD and ARIES (Artificial Intelligence for Environment and Sustainability) have launched the ARIES for SEEA module, for rapid production of some components of SEEA EA. ARIES for SEEA is an open-source platform that allows users to use additional data and produce additional information consistent with SEEA EA.

Implementing SEEA-EA in Kenya

Based on the results of the workshop, and with technical support from IUCN, the partners will use national data to produce benchmark accounts for ecosystem extent and selected ecosystem services. These benchmark accounts will help the country to assess the suitability of global data and tools, such as ARIES for SEEA, and to produce ecosystem accounts within their national statistical system.

In addition, the partners will develop an assessment to build additional accounts for Kenya in the medium to long term, contributing to Kenya's national plan for natural capital accounting.

The BIODEV2030 project is financed by the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), coordinated by Expertise France and implemented by IUCN and WWF in 8 countries each.