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System of Environmental Economic Accounts SEEA The measurement framework for the environment and its interactions with the economy. Peter Harper Chair UNCEEA Deputy Australian Statistician Australian Bureau of Statistics.

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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 `

What do we care about?… and do our targets reflect this?
audiences for information indicators and accounts
Data users

Is there an issue?






Audiences for information… Indicators and Accounts

Headline indicators

Decision makers & wider public

Indicators on specific subjects or industries



and analysts


Standard tables

Supplementary tables


Data items

information is vital and it needs to be integrated
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
Problem: Information silos
  • Data developed to answer one particular question or problem
  • Difficult to figure out if all information is included
  • Not always easy to see the whole picture, or how it relates to other things
solution integrated information
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 statistics

linking environmental and socio economic data is essential for policymakers
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
DPSIR framework



using a standard is very important
Using a standard is very important…

Organising information within the SEEA framework ensures

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
The SEEA standard

Developed by UNSD, NSOs, Eurostat, OECD, IMF, World Bank

1993 Handbook – satellite to SNA

2003 Updated SEEA handbook – manual of best practices

2006 UNSC decided to elevate SEEA to an international standard

2012 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

2013 SEEA – Experimental Ecosystem Accounts

2013 SEEA – Applications and Policy Uses


SEEA-Water, SEEA-Energy, SEEA-Material flows (MFA), SEEA-Agriculture

the seea central framework incorporates four types of accounts
The SEEA central framework incorporates four types of accounts.

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

Stock accounts for environmental assets: natural resources, land and ecosystems.

physical and/or monetary values

Activity / purpose accounts that explicitly identify environmental transactions already existing in the SNA.

e.g. Environmental Protection Expenditure (EPE) accounts

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

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
Take home messages…
  • Integrating environmental and economic information is vital for informed, sophisticated decision-making
  • SEEA is an internationally recognised standard explicitly designed for this purpose
  • SEEA is an accounting standard, not an ideology
  • SEEA enables a wide range of issues to be studied, including sustainability, well-being and green growth