Given the importance of different ecosystem services in Colombia, it is hardly surprising that there have been a multitude of studies to date that attempt to value these ecosystems. There is also strong interest in environmental accounting, with the national statistics office (DANE) in the process of introducing environmental accounts as part of the official statistics. Colombia has introduced stock accounts for energy and mineral resources and expenditure accounts for environmental protection and also made some progress toward undertaking renewable resource accounting (water, forest and liquid, gas and solid waste). The WAVES program in Colombia will build on existing work, bring together all stakeholders, and work toward ecosystem accounting contributing to policymaking.
Watersheds in the Colombian Mountains provide important ecosystem services. For instance, they provide the basis for crops, livestock, and wood fuel, as well as fish production and water supply. In addition a healthy watershed prevents erosion and regulates flooding. They are the source of water for downstream urban areas, an ecosystem service that relies on the conservation of the mountain forests and other ecosystems that guarantee water availability.
The Colombian Capital, Bogotá, is surrounded by reserves and national parks which are vital to maintain the city’s water supply, while also being important reservoirs of biodiversity.
The work in Colombia started in January 2011 with initial consultations with key institutions. Since the beginning of the year, there has been significant of progress in the program preparations. The National Planning Department (DNP) hosted a major stakeholders’ workshop during the first week of September 2011. The workshop discussed an assessment report funded by WAVES. The report covered institutional issues, the state of knowledge on environmental accounting and valuation in Colombia, data gaps and data availability and a draft work plan.
All parties present at the workshop agreed on the institutional design as well as on next steps, which include determination of priorities for valuation and a road map for the WAVES Colombia program implementation phase.
- Past work on ecosystem valuation: There is a large literature on ecosystem valuation in Colombia, however, policy impacts have been limited.
- Green accounting initiative: A green accounting committee was established by UNDP about 5 years ago and it meets sporadically. The official statistics program is under the auspices of the National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE). DANE is in the process of introducing environmental accounts as part of the official statistics. It has introduced stock accounts for energy and mineral resources, which includes oil, hard coal, natural gas, iron, copper and nickel, and the expense accounts for environmental protection. DANE has also made some progress in renewable resource accounting, including water, forest and liquid, gas and solid waste, and in the construction of an environmental quality index for air and water resources.
- Institutional mandates and overlaps: There are several government institutions with a mandate for ecosystem valuation. Responsibility for the valuation of ecosystem services lies with the Ministry of Environment, Housing and Territorial Development (MAVDT) and DNP, the valuation of degradation costs with MAVDT, National Planning Department (DNP), Institute of Hydrology, Meterology and Enviromental Studies (IDEAM) and (Comptroller General of the Republic) CGR; while the green GDP accounting mandate is with DANE. DNP plays a supporting role and is a cross-sectoral organization.
Making WAVES in Colombia
The WAVES workshop held in September 2011 in Bogotá, was organized and led by the National Planning Department (DNP). A draft assessment report, funded by the WAVES Partnership, was presented at the workshop and it included a discussion of institutional issues, the state of knowledge in Colombia, data gaps and data availability, and a draft work plan. A version of the report incorporating feedback from the workshop is currently under review.
Workshop presentations can be found on the DNP website (in Spanish).
Invitations to the workshop were sent to all relevant institutions that have played a role in either ecosystem valuation, or green accounting in Colombia. Present at the meetings were representatives from the National Planning Department (DNP); Ministry of the Environment (MAVDT); General Comptroller's Office ( CGR) and the National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE). Representatives from public research institutions, including the National Research Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (IDEAM) and the National Research Institute of Biodiversity Alexander von Humboldt attended and from NGOs including Conservation International Colombia and WWF, played a prominent role in the workshop.
The workshop highlighted some of the challenges that have emerged in developing green accounts:
- Data availability
- Lack of consensus on methodology
- Overlapping institutional lines of responsibility
It was agreed that there is a need for further discussion on focal areas based upon the available data, the country's experience and methodological challenges in valuation.