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Towards the implementation of SEEA-MFA Learning Centre on Environmental Accounts UNSC, New York February 2009. Bram Edens United Nations Statistics Division. Outline. What is MFA? History Policy considerations Different approaches Examples Statistical issues in MFA Way forward.

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Towards the implementation of SEEA-MFALearning Centre on Environmental AccountsUNSC, New York February 2009

Bram Edens

United Nations Statistics Division

  • What is MFA?
  • History
  • Policy considerations
  • Different approaches
  • Examples
  • Statistical issues in MFA
  • Way forward
what is mfa
What is MFA?
  • Describe economy in physical terms
  • EW MFA vs. accounting approach
  • Principle: mass balancing
  • Criticized for ‘ton ideology’
history of mfa
History of MFA
  • Beginning of 90s: First EW-MFA studies emerge (Austria, Japan, Germany, USA)
  • 1997, 2000: ‘The Weight of Nations’ (World Resources Institute)
  • 2001: Economy-wide Material Flow Accounts and Derived Indicators. A Methodological Guide (Eurostat)
  • SEEA 2003: chapter 3 “Physical flow accounting”
  • 2004: OECD Council Recommendation on Material Flows and Resource Productivity
  • 2007: EW-MFA data collection (Eurostat)
  • 2008: OECD guidance documents
  • Ongoing: SEEA-MFA
policy considerations the weight of nations
Policy considerations ‘The Weight of Nations’
  • Industrial economies are becoming more efficient in their use of materials, but waste generation continues to increase.
  • One half to three quarters of annual resource inputs to industrial economies are returned to the environment as wastes within a year.
  • Outputs of some hazardous materials have been regulated and successfully reduced or stabilized but outputs of many potentially harmful materials continue to increase.
  • The extraction and use of fossil energy resources dominate output flows in all industrial countries.

Source: World Resources Institute 2000

policy considerations ii the weight of nations
Policy considerations II‘The Weight of Nations’
  • Physical accounts are urgently needed, because our knowledge of resource use and waste outputs is surprisingly limited.
  • Neither traditional monetary accounts nor environmental statistics are an adequate basis for tracking resource flows into and out of the economy.
  • They record only a part of resource inputs, lose sight of some materials in the course of processing, and entirely miss major flows of materials that do not enter the economy at all, such as soil erosion from cultivated fields
  • On the output side, monetary accounts and environmental statistics record few material flows that are not subject to regulation or classified as wastes requiring treatment. Nor do they differentiate among the many materials that are aggregated in products

Source: World Resources Institute 2000

different approaches to measure material flows
Different approaches to measure material flows
  • Statistics: waste, energy, foreign trade, production, etc.
  • Economy Wide MFA
    • Aggregate flows into and out of the economy (economy black box)
    • Time series show decoupling, resource efficiency
    • Comparison of direct and indirect flows
  • Accounting approach “physical flow accounting”
    • Disaggregation by industry and by products (black box is opened up)
    • PSUT, PIOT
  • Substance or product specific
    • Substance flow analysis, Life Cycle Analysis

How EW-MFA sees the World

Domestic resources


Example: DMI per capita - Denmark

Fossil energy

Non-metallic minerals


Source: Statistics Denmark

example environmental hot spots of the iron steel system european union 2000 million tonnes
Example: “Environmental hot-spots" of the iron & steel system, European Union, 2000 (million tonnes)

Source: Source: Moll,

Acosta and Schütz (2005)

in OECD Synthesis Report (2008)

Example: International trade of chromium, focus on the United States and its major trade partners, 2000

Source: Johnson, Schewel and Graedel (2006) in OECD Synthesis Report (2008).

statistical issues in mfa
Statistical issues in MFA
  • Classification of physical flows
    • CPC vs. waste classification
  • System boundaries
    • Residence vs. territory
    • Cultivated crops and trees
    • Landfill
    • Consumer durables
  • Terminology
    • Socio-economic system
    • Unused flows
way forward
Way forward?
  • Mainstream MFA within official statistics
  • Develop SEEA-MFA as a standard (UNSD in cooperation with OECD and Eurostat)
  • SEEA-MFA to UNSC in 2011
  • Develop an implementation strategy
    • Implications for data collection
  • Future research: impact weighting