25 September 2019

The November issue of the European Union newsletter about GDP (2019), "Beyond GDP” Newsletter, features an interview about the MAIA project with the project coordinator Prof. Lars Hein.

What are the objectives of the MAIA (Mapping and Assessment for Integrated Ecosystem Accounting) project? Which partners are involved?

The MAIA project is funded by Horizon2020 and aims to support and promote the application of Ecosystem Accounting in the EU, following the framework of the UN System of Environmental Economic Accounting (specifically: the UN System of Environmental-Economic Accounting - Ecosystem Accounting Framework). The project has partners from 10 EU countries including Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and the UK. Partners include research and statistical organisations. 

Which kind of accounts will it cover (biophysical and\or monetary)? Which period and country?

The project includes several components that include the development and testing of pilot accounts in various countries, reaching out to stakeholders and building a community of practice, and innovations and R&D to address remaining challenges in ecosystem accounting. The specific accounts to be developed vary by country, reflecting policy priorities, but overall the project will develop ecosystem extent, ecosystem condition, ecosystem services, ecosystem asset and biodiversity accounts. Of these, the ecosystem services account will be physical and monetary and the ecosystem asset account will be monetary. All other accounts will be in physical units only.

Will MAIA accounts be geographically referenced?

All accounts will be geographically referenced, i.e. all accounts will include maps and corresponding accounting tables.  The various accounts will be developed either at national or subnational scale.

What is the utility of the UN System of Environmental-Economic Accounting Ecosystem Accounting Framework and what was your role in its development?

The UN System of Environmental-Economic Accounting Ecosystem Accounting Framework (or SEEA-EA) takes a very comprehensive view on the interactions between ecosystems and people. It measures the state and use of ecosystems using maps and tables, with a wide range of physical and monetary indicators. The system is designed in such a way that is aligned with and is complementary to the economic and other statistics produced in almost all countries of the world on the basis of the System of National Accounts, which includes indicators such as GDP. Given that these economic statistics omit important environmental impacts (such as ecosystem degradation) and that environmental degradation increasingly has economic repercussions it is important that SEEA EA is implemented. As for my personal role, I have been involved in the development of the SEEA EA from the early days, i.e. around 2010. The process itself has been led by the UN Statistics Division. The main challenge in developing the SEEA EA was incorporating relevant elements from national accounting, statistics, ecology and economics, and it has been a pleasure to have been part of this process.

What is MAIA’s link with the KIP-INCA project currently being developed by the European Commission?

Also in KIP-INCA, the Commission wants to test and where relevant and feasible implement the SEEA EA framework. KIP-INCA produces Ecosystem Accounts at the European scale, whereas MAIA implements accounts at national and sub-national scales. The MAIA national and sub-national accounts will generally have a broader range of indicators and a higher spatial resolution – but clearly MAIA will not lead to EU-wide cover as will the KIP-INCA project. It is important that we collaborate to ensure shared learning and consistent implementation of SEEA EA.

The full interview can be found here.

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