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Intemerate Accounts

February 27, 2018

Intemerate is defined as, “inviolate, pure, undefiled,” in the Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (1971); and the Oxford English Dictionary (1971) quotes, “The absolute sinlessness of Mary, as well as her intemerate virginity.” Hence, intemerate accounts refers to the valuation of what is inviolate, pure and undefiled.


Big Data has already forced radical changes in trade, markets, and production, and it is only a matter of time before blockchain technology—a kind of new ledger protocol that was developed as a transaction record for Bitcoin– disrupts currency exchange and valuation as we know it and it is already being developed as a ledger for environmental accounts.[i] Information systems and artificial intelligence, too, are spawning a vast new platform for governance, one that should be utilized for the promotion of monitoring and managing our ecological biodiversity. What may not seem obvious is that the convergence of these seemingly disparate data systems, are going to be the drivers of the new economy in the 21st century.

Communication, energy, transportation are three sectors that are converging in an effort to meet new climate goals as quickly as possible. But where that convergence is happening may not be readily apparent as we might simply see this as a shift of goods and services, creating new markets for smart phones, renewable energy systems and smart cars; no, the real convergence is in data systems.

We are familiar with data lakes and data streams, but what about the ocean of data, the literal ocean? The data ocean is vast, and it is the Pacific that should be designing and implementing the tools it needs to adequately manage our regional ocean of data. This is predicated on the idea that a Blue Economy needs to account for its ocean of data, because the value of that data is what is going to raise the GDP of the Pacific. While the value of data governance cannot be quantified at this time, as it will have to harmonize with the global metrics of environmental and economic accounting, one thing that is certain is we will be unable to value our regional ocean of data if we do not own it or have the means to do it.

But data access alone, is not enough to fully realize the potential that data can offer to achieving, monitoring and reviewing sustainable development goals. As stated in Addis Ababa Action Agenda:

“We should endeavor to ensure broad access to the tools necessary to turn data into useful, actionable information. We will support efforts to make data standards interoperable, allowing data from different sources to be more easily compared and used. We call on relevant public and private actors to put forward proposals to achieve a significant increase in global data literacy, accessibility and use, in support of the post 2015 development agenda.” [ii]

While UNESCAP and the other statistical agency partners have already begun to develop programmes for implementing the national accounting shifts into the SDG development agenda by building upon the basic population, economic, social and environmental statistics, it is important to recognize that it remains within the national development initiative. But for Pacific regionalism, the purpose is to move away from that development programme and into one that is independent and self-determining for the protection of our peoples, environments and resources. Hence, what we should be aiming for is a pathway for greater regional equity rather than a development pathway that will only further entrench us within the spectrum of donor clients.

The global adoption of the 2012 SEEA framework should not be seen as an automatic big win for small island states. Rather, it should be seen as a call to action to begin the necessary task of monitoring and assessing our regional equity and investment/development priorities. As we begin to account for our statistical data and shift how our region is valued, the equity we possess changes. Importantly, as this value and equity change, so too, we will need to change regulatory policies to reflect that.

Natural Accounting schemes and Existence Valuation are dependent upon the monetization of natural assets and the value of ecosystem services, treating them as an application of goods and services that can be modified to conform to accounting aggregates in the ledger of global trade. The problem with this is that for the Pacific, national or regional financing of its goods and services will never be able to compete with the international investment infrastructure that would provide the same rules for acquisition and privatization that governs small and medium enterprises in traditional trade, perpetuating the resource curse of underdevelopment.

In order to realise the full value of our shared ocean continent, the Pacific needs to develop a collective set of what I call Intemerate Accounts. Intemerate Accounts proposes to establish an economic baseline for biodiversity that attributes value to an ecosystem that is scalable and inclusive of the labor of stewardship and the management of statistical data.

The spirit for establishing an intemerate accounting scheme was inspired from a discussion that took place in Los Angeles, California with Reverend Francois Pihaatae, the General Secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC). We agreed that for our sea of islands to truly be chartered by our people, there needed to be a regulatory ecological framework that accounted for our integrated regional equity in the global economy.

Unlike accounting schemes that offset the degradation of ecosystems and the depletion of resources linked to climate change, Intemerate Accounts proposes a value for biodiversity that mirrors the nominal value of national accounting systems where the measurement of their economies are derived from degradation and depletion. The first task for establishing intemerate accounts then is to establish a baseline for accounting the value of our ecological biodiversity by leaving it “inviolate, pure, and undefiled” and leverage that value against the assets of industries and economies that most benefit from environmental degradation and resource depletion.

By drafting a statistical data framework of biodiversity, intemerate accounts proposes a value for our regional biodiversity that is balanced and equitable with other regions. The immediate baseline value of an intemerate accounting scheme will be measured against an aggregate of various economic indicators, particularly to GDP indicators whose economic assets and carbon outputs are directly derived from the degradation and depletion from, for example, extractive industries.

[i] Chapron, Guillaume.” The environment needs cryptogovernance.” Nature. 22 May 2017. https://www.nature.com/news/the-environment-needs-cryptogovernance-1.22023

[ii] United Nations. “Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development.” Par. 128

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