UN launches AI tool to measure nature contributions to economic prosperity

The new tool is expected to make it easier for countries to measure nature’s ecosystems, such as forests and wetlands

The UN has launched an innovative artificial intelligence (AI) tool that will make it easier for countries to measure the contributions of nature to their economic prosperity and well-being.

The new tool, developed by the Statistics Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and BC3, is expected to “vastly accelerate” implementation of the new standard for valuing the contributions of nature that was adopted by the UN Statistical Commission earlier this year.

The accounting framework—the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting—Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA EA) – would mark a major step forward to incorporating sustainable development in economic planning and policy decision-making and could have a significant impact on efforts to address critical environmental emergencies, including climate change and biodiversity loss.

The new tool makes use of AI technology using the Artificial Intelligence for Environment and Sustainability (ARIES) platform to support countries as they apply the new international standard for natural capital accounting.

The ecosystem accounts produced by countries will track the extent, condition and services provided by nature’s ecosystems – such as forests and wetlands – in the form of physical and monetary accounts and indicators.

Risenga Maluleke, Statistician-General of Statistics South Africa and Chair of the UN Committee of Experts on Big Data and Data Science for Official Statistics said: “The launch of the ARIES for SEEA Explorer on the UN Global Platform is an important step to mainstream the measurement of ecosystems and their contribution to the economy and wellbeing into global, regional and domestic statistics that will feed into policy and decision making.

“Better measures of nature will contribute to better policies to save our planet.”

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