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News article11 March 2021BrusselsDirectorate-General for Environment3 min read

Biodiversity: ground-breaking change to economic reporting accounting for nature’s contribution to economy

A new statistical framework to better account for biodiversity and ecosystems in national economic planning and policy decision-making, approved yesterday, allows countries worldwide to use a common set of rules and methods to track changes in ecosystems and their services. The European Commission supported the United Nations in the development of this framework with contributions from scientists, statisticians and policymakers. The new framework goes beyond the commonly used statistic of gross domestic product (GDP) and ensures that natural capital accounts—the contributions of forests, oceans and other ecosystems—complements existing economic accounts.

Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans said:

To tackle the climate and biodiversity crises we have to transform our economic model. This new statistical framework moves beyond GDP and takes better account of biodiversity and ecosystems in national economic planning. It is a major development in changing the way we think about prosperity and wellbeing.

Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius added:

Whereas nature contributes substantially into our economy, it is largely invisible in our economic statistics. We need to transform how we view and value nature and make its contribution to our life part of the economic equation. For that, we need robust methods to track investments, impacts and dependencies on nature. The new framework is a major step in this direction, as it could fundamentally reorient economic and policy planning toward sustainable development.

The Knowledge Innovation Project on Integrated Natural Capital Accounting, a project of the Commission and the European Environment Agency, produced EU statistics and trends on the extent of different ecosystems, their condition and ecosystem services, which are compliant with the new framework for natural capital accounting.

Next steps

The Commission is going to propose the revision of the Regulation on European Environmental Economic Accounts (EEEA) to expand its coverage to include a new module on natural capital accounting, fully consistent with the UN framework. This is in line with the recommendation of the European Court of Auditors and the recent mid-term review of European Strategy for environmental accounts (ESEA) 2019-2023. The EU could then become the global front-runner as being the first continent in the world reporting on changes in ecosystems and their services.


The Global Agenda for Sustainable Development recognises the need to develop indicators to measure progress beyond GDP. The Commission launched the initiative on Beyond GDP in 2009, to develop and use social and environmental indicators and accounting which help measuring progress in a holistic way, beyond GDP. Since then, we have made progress both in terms of statistical work and policy use, including through the Regulation on European Environmental Economic Accounts and the consumption footprint indicator. Other indicators used in EU policymaking include Sustainable Development Goals’ indicators, the resilience dashboard, Circular economy monitoring framework, and the social scoreboard.

The European Green Deal calls for managing and integrating climate and environmental risks into the financial system, while the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030 stresses the need to integrate biodiversity considerations better into public and business decision-making at all levels. The Commission proposal for the 8th Environment Action Programme, currently under negotiation among the European Parliament and Council, enshrines the 2050 vision to live well, within the boundaries of our planet, and proposes 2030 objectives in line with the European Green Deal. As one of the key enablers to achieve this, the programme identifies phasing out environmentally harmful subsidies at Union and national level, making the best use of market-based instruments and green budgeting tools, including those required to ensure a socially fair transition, and supporting businesses and other stakeholders in developing standardised natural capital accounting practices.

More information:

Natural capital accounting website

Beyond GDP website

ESTAT ecosystem accounts

UN press release

UN article and a short video


Publication date
11 March 2021
Directorate-General for Environment

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