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Input-Output Conference 2010

National Environmental Accounting

Recent international efforts directed at incorporating resources and pollution into traditional National Accounting have resulted in satellite accounts in physical units. These accounts are called NAMEA - National Accounting Matrix including Environmental Accounts.

NAMEAs now exist in a number of European countries such as Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, the UK, Sweden and Japan. In the last five years, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has published some physical accounts on minerals, energy, greenhouse gases, fish stocks, and water use. These accounts deal mostly with the supply-side (that is producer's) breakdown of physical resource use. Each account item represents the resource use of industries.

ISA has collaborated with many statistcial agencies, for example the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Defra UK, in order to calculate physical National Accounts from a demand-side (consumer's) perspective. These accounts represent the resource use for commodities consumed by final consumers such as households, the government, and foreign consumers. Demand-side accounts contain contributions by all industries in the entire upstream supply chain of each commodity.

In 2007, Defra UK has commissioned ISA and the Stockholm Environment Institute to calculate a time series of UK input-output accounts at great industry sector detail, and to derive from these accounts embedded carbon emissions and the UK's carbon footprint.

Another example is a National Ecological Footprint Account for Australia calculated at the University of Sydney, which is given below. This type of National Account can be calculated for a large range of physical indicators, such as employment, land use, water use and others.

The need for environmentally extended National Accounts is acknowledged by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in the most recent Water Accounts (ABS 2000, p. 3):

“Environmental accounting work is proceeding in many countries in response to national and international recommendations. The United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development in 1992 and the resulting document, Agenda 21, proposes 'a program to develop national systems of integrated environmental and economic accounting in all countries' […].

The System of National Accounts (SNA) supports policy making at a national level, however, historically the methods have had little regard for environmental matters. An important aim of environmental accounting is to assess the environmental sustainability of economic activities and economic growth by quantifying any depletion and degradation of a natural resource. An environmental account provides an information system which links the economic activities and uses of a resource to changes in the natural resource base.

Environmental accounting provides a link with the economy by depicting quantitative information on natural resources that can then be linked to economic data sets such as Australia's National Accounts. This allows for monitoring of the flow of the resource through the economy.”

For further information contact us for journal articles featuring

  • Water Accounting for Australia: Vardon M, Lenzen M, Peevor S, and Creaser M, Water accounting in Australia, Ecological Economics, in press, 2007,
  • a Brazilian Social and Environmental Accounting System: Lenzen M and Schaeffer R, Environmental and social accounting for Brazil, Environmental and Resource Economics 27, 201-226, 2003,
  • 1994-95 National Land and Greenhouse Gas Accounts: Lenzen M and Murray S A, A modified ecological footprint method and its application to Australia, Ecological Economics 37 (2), 229-255, 2001,
  • a 1994-95 National Water Account: Lenzen M and Foran B, An input-output analysis of Australian water usage, Water Policy 3 (4), 321-340, 2001,
  • 1992-93 National Energy and Greenhouse Gas Accounts: Lenzen M, Primary energy and greenhouse gases embodied in Australian final consumption: an input-output analysis, Energy Policy 26 (6), 495-506, 1998.

Dr Christopher Dey
School of Physics, A28
The University of Sydney NSW 2006
+61 (0)2 9351-5979,