Slide 1

System of Environmental
Economic Accounts
The measurement framework for the environment
and its interactions with the economy
Peter Harper
Deputy Australian Statistician
Australian Bureau of Statistics
What do we care about?
… and do our targets reflect this?
‘What we measure affects what we do; and if our measurements are flawed,
decisions may be distorted. Choices between promoting GDP and protecting
the environment may be false choices once environmental degradation is
appropriately included in our measurement of economic performance. So too,
we often draw inferences about what are good policies by looking at what
policies have promoted economic growth; but if our metrics of performance
are flawed, so too may be the inferences that we draw.’
Stiglitz et al
‘A country could exhaust its mineral resources, cut down its forests, erode its
soil, pollute its aquifers, and hunt its wildlife to extinction, but measured
income would not be affected as these assets disappeared.’
Repetto et al `
Audiences for information… Indicators and
Data users
Headline indicators
Decision makers & wider public
Is there an issue?
Indicators on specific
subjects or industries
and analysts
Standard tables
Supplementary tables
Data items
Information is vital
…and it needs to be integrated
• The economy impacts on the environment and the
environment impacts on the economy
• To understand these linkages we need to integrate
environmental and economic information
• This is the explicit purpose of the SEEA framework
Problem: Information silos
Data developed to
answer one particular
question or problem
Difficult to figure out if
all information is
Not always easy to see
the whole picture, or
how it relates to other
Solution: Integrated information
Help to make sense of
the larger picture
Help to identify pieces
that are missing
Can make connections
to other statistics especially economic
Linking environmental and socio-economic
data is essential for policymakers
• enables analysis of the impact of economic policies on the
environment and vice versa
• provides a quantitative basis for policy design
• identifies the socio-economic drivers, pressures, impacts and
responses affecting the environment
• supports greater precision for environmental regulations and
resource management strategies
• provides indicators that express the relationships between the
environment and the economy
DPSIR framework
Using a standard is very important…
• Organising information within the SEEA framework
– Consistency (with existing standards eg SNA)
– Completeness (no gaps, or at least known gaps)
– Comparability (across time and space)
– Accountability (industry, governments, h/holds)
The SEEA standard
Developed by UNSD, NSOs, Eurostat, OECD, IMF, World Bank
Handbook – satellite to SNA
Updated SEEA handbook – manual of best practices
UNSC decided to elevate SEEA to an international standard
SEEA – The Central Framework
Chapter 1 – Introduction
Chapter 2 – Accounting structure
Chapter 3 – Physical supply and use
Chapter 4 – Monetary transactions
Chapter 5 – Asset accounts
Chapter 6 – Sequence of accounts, aggregates and indicators
SEEA – Experimental Ecosystem Accounts
SEEA – Applications and Policy Uses
SEEA-Water, SEEA-Energy, SEEA-Material flows (MFA), SEEA-Agriculture
The SEEA central framework incorporates
four types of accounts.
1. Flow accounts: supply and use tables for products, natural resources, ecosystem
inputs and residuals or wastes from economic activities.
– physical (e.g. GL of water) and/or monetary values
2. Stock accounts for environmental assets: natural resources, land and
– physical and/or monetary values
3. Activity / purpose accounts that explicitly identify environmental transactions
already existing in the SNA.
– e.g. Environmental Protection Expenditure (EPE) accounts
4. Environmentally adjusted accounts that adjust SNA economic accounts to reflect
the impact of economic activity on the environment.
– e.g. for environmental depletion and degradation
Ecosystem services
Ecosystem services are “fundamental life-support services upon
which human civilization depends”, and can be direct or indirect.
Broad examples include:
• Regulating (climate, floods, nutrient balance, water filtration)
• Provisioning (food, medicine, fur, minerals)
• Cultural (science, spiritual, ceremonial, recreation, aesthetic)
• Supporting (nutrient cycling, photosynthesis, soil formation)
Take home messages…
1. Integrating environmental and economic information
is vital for informed, sophisticated decision-making
2. SEEA is an internationally recognised standard
explicitly designed for this purpose
3. SEEA is an accounting standard, not an ideology
4. SEEA enables a wide range of issues to be studied,
including sustainability, well-being and green growth

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