Participants at the Introductory Course on Environmental Accounting in Paraguay, November 2016

Read this article in Spanish here.

By Franco Carvajal, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)

How much progress have LAC countries made in NCA implementation in recent years?

Lately, more and more countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) have been using NCA as a tool to inform their public policy decisions, with a view to achieving sustainable development. Since the publication of the Environmental-Economic Accounting Status by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in 2008, LAC countries have made significant progress in various areas, such as NCA coverage in the field of natural resources, institutional organization mechanisms, and uses and applications of NCA in policy procedures.  This progress has been facilitated by improvements in environmental statistics, the growing interest of national governments in integrated information, and the support provided by international organizations.

According to ECLAC, five countries are now constantly working to develop environmental accounts (Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala, Ecuador and Costa Rica), and nine countries have made progress with their first pilot accounts (Brazil, Chile, Panama, Peru, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Paraguay, Saint Lucia and Uruguay). Meanwhile, four LAC countries have made significant progress in institutionalizing their environmental accounting programs. Of the four, Mexico and Colombia have been working on this process since the 1990s, while Costa Rica and Chile have more recently elevated their programs to an institutional status. Four other countries have declared their interest in developing NCA programs in the future (the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Dominica, and Bahamas).

Since 2008, the number of countries implementing NCA has more than doubled. Guatemala and Ecuador stand out as countries that have made considerable technical advances over this period. Furthermore, certain countries that signaled their interest in NCA implementation in 2008, such as Brazil, Chile and Peru, have made good on this commitment over the intervening years.

NCA Implementation in LAC countries in 2017 (*Countries with strong institutional NCA programs)

The accounts are increasingly being used for decision-making and planning procedures in LAC countries like Mexico and the WAVES core implementing countries (Colombia, Guatemala and Costa Rica). The accounts have been used for various purposes: analyzing sector efficiency and intensity regarding energy and natural resource extraction; estimating the economic values of ecosystem services when it comes to water and forests’ and as an information tool for managing and monitoring government plans. Notwithstanding this significant progress, the use of NCA for public policy decisions in the remaining LAC countries is one of the main challenges for regional implementation.

A new drive for regional cooperation

At a regional workshop on "Environmental Accounting for Policy Analysis" in March 2016, held in Bogota and jointly organized by ECLAC, the World Bank WAVES Global Partnership, and the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), LAC countries confirmed their support for the development of a Regional Cooperation Program (RCP) with the following objectives: (i) to strengthen the implementation and use of NCA for policymaking; (ii) to strengthen cooperation between the participating countries; and (iii) to develop a community of environmental accounting professionals and experts to share knowledge and experiences.

The RCP, which is currently coordinated by WAVES and ECLAC, has made progress in certain important areas. For example, an NCA Readiness Report for LAC countries is being prepared in order to coordinate the program’s cooperation strategies. The two organizations are also coordinating their technical assistance agendas in order to make the most of their shared resources and tools. Lastly, progress is being made regarding the construction of a Community of Environmental Accounting, with the development of an online platform and webinars attended by regional officials and experts.

Recent activity

In November 2016, as part of the UN Development Account Project (Tranche 9) and with the support and participation of WAVES, ECLAC conducted an Introductory Course on Environmental Accounting for Paraguay. Cooperation between agencies has helped government officials to develop tentative work agendas for the construction of energy, forest and environmental protection accounts, orienting them to approach this process from an institutional and technical perspective.

In April 2017, again with the support of WAVES, ECLAC will hold a workshop in the Dominican Republic on energy and emissions accounts, which will look in detail at energy flow accounting in the country.  The workshop will be attended by an expert from EUROSTAT.

Following a request from the Government of Ecuador, both agencies held a first meeting with officials from the Ministry for the Environment, with the goal of supporting the country’s Institutionalization Plan for its environmental accounts. Efforts are also underway between WAVES and ECLAC to support Uruguay in the development of its pilot accounts.

One last important achievement is the initiation of a series of regional webinars, organized as part of wider efforts to build the LAC Community of Environmental Accounting. Around 15 officials from nine countries participated in the first webinar, held in January 2017, in addition to experts from WAVES and ECLAC. Members of this Community are expected to meet at least every two months to discuss different issues related to NCA in the region. 

For any questions about this article, please contact the ECLAC Environmental Statistics team at