the un system of environmental economic accounting seea and its implementation in pilot countries
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The UN System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) and its implementation in pilot countries. Ivo Havinga United Nations Statistics Division [email protected] Rio Conventions Pavilion Event: Transformative Initiatives in Biodiversity Mainstreaming and Financing 16 October 2014.

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the un system of environmental economic accounting seea and its implementation in pilot countries

The UN System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) and its implementation in pilot countries

Ivo Havinga

United Nations Statistics Division

[email protected]

Rio Conventions Pavilion Event:

Transformative Initiatives in Biodiversity Mainstreaming and Financing

16 October 2014

policy demand international context
Policy Demand: International Context
  • Agenda 21
  • Rio+20 outcome document
  • High-Level Panel Report on the Post-2015 Development Agenda
  • SDGs monitoring
  • European legislation
  • Aichi targets
  • Natural Capital Accounting
  • International initiatives
    • OECD’s Green Growth Strategy, WAVES, VANTAGE, UNEP-led Green Economy programme, CBD, TEEB
integrated multi dimensional statistics
Integrated multi-dimensional statistics

Demand for Integrated statistics which allow coherent understanding for integrated policy

Requires accounting approach and integrated statistical production process

Ensure quality of information and consistency between basic data, accounts and tables and indicators

integrated multi dimensional statistics1
Integrated multi-dimensional statistics

Transforming sectoral data into integrated policy-relevant information

Interrelations between economy, environment and society through systems approach – SNA and SEEA

Communication and visualization of the story the statistics tell

seea enabler for the transformative agenda
SEEA: Enabler for the transformative agenda

Enable integration of biophysical data, monitoring changes in ecosystem and linking those changes to economic and human activity


Central Framework



Experimental Ecosystem


Inform post 2015 development agenda and SDGs

Enable partnership at international, regional, sub-regional and national level.

seea conceptual framework
SEEA Conceptual Framework


Territory of reference






- Financing

-Resource rent


Economic Units

  • Enterprises
  • Households
  • Government
  • Non-profit institutions





Outside territory of reference

Outside territory of reference

Analytical and Policy Frameworks

-Productivity analysis

-Natural resource management

-Climate change

-Green Growth/Green Economy

-Post-2015 Development Agenda

Natural inputs

Residuals (e.g., emissions, waste)



Individual Environmental Assets (e.g., land, water, mineral and energy, soil, aquatic)

Ecosystem Assets

Transboundary Environmental Flows

seea central framework
SEEA Central Framework

Internationally agreed statistical framework to measure environment and its interactions with economy

Adopted as international statistical standard by UN Statistical Commission in 2012

Developed through inter-governmental process

Published by UN, EU, FAO, IMF, OECD, WB

the seea central framework accounts
The SEEA Central Framework Accounts
  • Flow accounts: supply and use tables for products, natural inputs and residuals (e.g. waste, wastewater) generated by economic activities.
    • physical (e.g. m2 of water) and/or monetary values (e.g. permits to access water, cost of wastewater treatment, etc.)
  • Stock accounts for environmental assets: natural resources and land
    • physical (e.g. fish stocks and changes in stocks) and/or monetary values (e.g. value of natural capital, depletion)
  • Activity / purpose accounts that explicitly identify environmental transactions already existing in the SNA.
    • e.g. Environmental Protection Expenditure (EPE) accounts, environmental taxes and subsidies
  • Combined physical and monetary accounts that bring together physical and monetary information for derivation indicators, including depletion adjusted aggregates
seea experimental ecosystem accounting
SEEA Experimental Ecosystem Accounting

Complements SEEA Central Framework

Integrated statistical framework for accounting for ecosystem assets and associated ecosystem services

Important first step in development of statistical framework for ecosystem accounting

linking ecosystem assets and well being through ecosystem services
Linking ecosystem assets and well-being through ecosystem services

Individual & societal well-being


SNA & non-SNA

Ecosystem services

Human inputs (e.g. labour, produced assets)

Ecosystem processes

Ecosystem characteristics

Intra-ecosystem flows

Inter-ecosystem flows


relationship to seea central framework
Relationship to SEEA Central Framework

Extends range of flows related to regulatory and cultural services (production boundary) for accounting compared to SNA and SEEA CF in physical and monetary terms

Many flows from Central Framework also included in Experimental Ecosystem Accounting (e.g. flows of timber), but extension of EEA is to attribute flows to spatial areas

Some Central Framework natural input flows are excluded from Experimental Ecosystem Accounting (e.g. mineral and energy resources)


The SEEA Experimental Ecosystem Accounting brings in two new dimensions:

  • Spatial characteristics expressed in spatial units
  • Integrated or holistic view of multiple characteristics for each unit
  • The EEA is focused on living (renewable) natural resources
  • Land
  • Water
  • Carbon
  • Biodiversity
  • Nutrients
  • Pollution
  • Human activities
  • Ecosystem services

Minimum dataset scheme

Unifying themes

Image source:

Measurement units for social, economic and environmental parameters remain untouched

New accounting and reporting units created for ecosystem accounting purposes

Spatial data perspective: harmonizing reporting units

Overlay of units (UK)


SEEA-EEA integration framework

Integration of ecosystem services in macroeconomic aggregates, like GDP and NDP









Ecosystem services in monetary and physical terms






Land account

Consistent physical and monetary asset accounts


Crops Statistics





Land cover/use Accounting units

Administrative reg., habitats, ecoregions

Raw data collection, processing and harmonization

hierarchical nested grid aggregation
Hierarchical (nested-grid) aggregation




Statistical Areas


Grid cell (e.g. 20m x 20m or 100m x 100m)

Ecosystem Accounting Unit (EAU)

Land Cover/Ecosystem Functional Unit (LCEU)

Basic Spatial Unit (BSU)



Building analytical capability for units and ensure that GIS standards are maintained


e.g. unified and hierarchical classifications and variables for units (grid)


Asset accounts on carbon:

Theme unifying a number of components, processes and data sets:



  • Statistical data on:
  • Forest biomass (FRA, 2000, 2005, 2010)
  • Crops harvest (EUROSTAT 2000 – 2010)
  • Timber harvest (EUROSTAT 2000 – 2010)
  • Livestock (EUROSTAT 2000 – 2010)
  • Remote sensing products:
  • Land cover (CORINE LC 2000, 2006)
  • Vegetation (SPOT vegetation NDVI 1999 – 2010)
  • Primary production (GPP) and Ecosystem respiration (TER), (NASA, 2000 – 2010)
  • Modelled data:
  • 1. Soil organic carbon (Global map, JRC (Hiederer and Köchy, 2012)



Source: European Environment Agency and ETC-SIA


European carbon accounts

Balance of lateral imports and exports

= Carbon returns – carbon ‘uses’

Net ecosystem production = Gross Primary Production – Terrestrial Ecosystem Respiration

The two basic balancing items are designed to summarize ‘vertical’ and ‘horizontal’ carbon transfers


Examples: Net ecosystem carbon balance

  • On country level the ecosystem carbon accounts should be consistent with IPCC’s in assessing whether ecosystems acted as net source or sink of CO2 for a given period of time.
  • The maps shows a decade average, with areas in green indicating prevailing sink (most of Europe) and in red – prevailing source functions (e.g. parts of North West Europe, Po valley in Italy, and spots of forest-burned areas of Portugal).
project activities advancing seea eea
Project activities – Advancing SEEA-EEA
  • Norwegian funded and joint collaboration between UNSD-UNEP- CBD
  • Country missions
  • Regional workshops: will gather and exchange experiences from the country pilots and other initiatives
  • Forum of experts: contacts of people involved in ecosystem accounting at national level and other (related) initiatives
  • Knowledge base: will include data and materials generated in the course of guidelines development and country missions
  • Research agenda: addressing challenging issues (for ex. mainstreamed classification of ecosystem services)
  • Guidance and training material
  • Global strategy for SEEA EEA
management and governance
Management and governance
  • Recognize multi-agency requirements and harnessing existing knowledge
  • Technical committee under the auspices of the UNCEEA responsible for:
      • Coordinate and advance the research agenda on the basis of lessons learnt from testing with the objective of developing best practices and in the longer term mainstreaming
short term priorities
Short term priorities
  • Spatial units
    • Scaling and aggregation methods
  • Methods for measuring ecosystem services and assets
    • Classification of services and link to ecosystem condition
  • Presentation and accounting structure
    • Dissemination, including visualisations
  • Linking to socio-economic data
    • Integration of scales
  • Valuation of ecosystem services
medium to long term priorities
Medium to long term priorities
  • Accounting concepts
    • Degradation – valuation and allocation
    • Integration of ecosystem values into standard accounts and balance sheets (links to wealth a/c)
    • Treatment of expenditures on ecosystems
  • Connections between ecosystem services and ecosystem condition
    • Often seen as competing approaches
    • SEEA EEA sees clear links but they are complex and non-linear
  • Aggregation and ecosystem-wide indicators
    • Most challenging aspect: needs to build and combine all other research and testing work
building on existing initiatives
Building on existing initiatives
  • SEEA and WAVES
    • WAVES uses as entry point the Ministries of Planning or Ministries of Finance – focus on institutional arrangements and policy applications
    • SEEA – UNSD uses the NSOs as entry points and has as objective to assist countries in developing an integrated statistical system to support the implementation of the SEEA
seea and teeb
  • TEEB focuses on answer specific policy questions in specific geographical areas
  • Objective is to raise awareness of the issues through using valuation
  • Broad ranges of types of projects
  • Working with SEEA with UNSD taking the lead in supporting countries in the SEEA implementation in the countries of the project
seea and biofin
  • BIOFIN has the objective of bringing together different stakeholders and make an assessment of the financing for biodiversity (e.g. financial gaps, etc.)
  • Developing a taxonomy on biodiversity expenditures, taxes, subsidies
  • SEEA – UNSD is working with BIOFIN to align the taxonomy with the standard classifications of environmental activities
seea and cbd
  • Aichi Target 2 is about mainstreaming biodiversity into national accounts
  • SEEA has been recognized as the statistical framework for measuring and monitoring ecosystems and biodiversity into an accounting approach
  • CBD partner in the project
seea and green economy initiatives
SEEA and Green economy initiatives
  • OECD recognized the SEEA as the statistical framework for green growth indicators
  • SEEA informs many of the green economy policies
  • SEEA working in Mauritius with PAGE (Programe of Action for Green Economy)