WAVES – the Wealth Accounting and the Valuation of Ecosystem Services partnership led by the World Bank, recently held its sixth annual meeting where it celebrated an important milestone – the implementation of natural capital accounting in its first five core countries; Botswana, Colombia, Costa Rica, Madagascar, and the Philippines. The WAVES programme is now undertaking a second phase ‘WAVES+’ engaging 5-8 new core implementing countries ‘to build a critical mass of developing countries implementing natural capital accounting’, and has just published its 2016 Annual Report.

WAVES was launched after the 2010 Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in Nagoya, and set out to support natural capital accounting in countries where the concept was largely unknown. Now, with support from with the highest levels of governance and promotion by private sector agencies, the natural capital accounts are beginning to inform national development plans and policies.

So, with enviable progress made by the WAVES programme, what can we learn from it? WAVES is conducting an analysis of the first phase of activity, and WAVES+ is founded on these lessons learned. In brief, the principles for WAVES+ include:

  • More targeted – implementation will focus on fewer, but economically significant sectors, to enable fast track implementation.
  • Streamlined reporting – improve estimates for natural capital contributions using macro-indicators.
  • Strategic learning – using similar approaches in ecosystem accounting for all implementing countries to ‘to provide comparability, enhance potential for country-to-country and/or regional collaboration, and enhance widespread learning’.
  • Structured policy use of accounts – outline the measures needed to translate accounts into policy from the outset.
  • South-south knowledge exchange – have a greater focus on regional workshops that bring countries together to share experience.

WAVES is underpinned by hands-on technical assistance, training, and support for government staff and institutions working on natural capital accounting. And importantly, a framework for translating these accounts into information for decision making is to be developed. In fact, strengthening natural capital accounting policy analysis in WAVES countries is a key challenge.

WAVES recognises that translating environmental statistics into policy-relevant analysis requires a different skill-set and expertise to that needed for the creation of accounts. ‘Co-ordination and cooperation’ between government, NGOs, researchers and other stakeholders is needed not only to share data, but also evaluate policy priorities and conduct policy relevant assessments. They suggest a set of case studies identifying policy applications, as well as involving agencies that will undertake the analytic work early on, will assist this process.

The 2016 Annual Report is interesting reading – not only for the lessons learnt but also to see the types of accounts these countries are pursuing – from water and forests to regional ecosystems. WAVES also has an online Knowledge Centre, with free resources on natural capital and wealth accounting. It includes links to the Little Green Data Book, policy briefings, technical reports and more.

As WAVES continues its work, we hope to see not only more south-south knowledge exchange, but south-north knowledge exchange too.

Check out www.wavespartnership.org for more information on the WAVES programme and the next phase of implementation.