QUALITY DECLARATION - SUMMARY
For information on the institutional environment of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), including the legislative obligations of the ABS, financing and governance arrangements, and mechanisms for scrutiny of ABS operations, please see ABS Institutional Environment.
The standards governing environmental-economic accounts ('environmental accounts') are agreed internationally and are described in the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA). The SEEA is endorsed by six key international economic and environmental organisations: the European Commission; the Food and Agriculture Organisation; the International Monetary Fund; the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; the United Nations; and the World Bank. The SEEA is available online at: http://unstats.un.org/unsd/envaccounting/seeaRev/SEEA_CF_Final_en.pdf
The Australian Environmental Economic Accounts ('AEEA') are the culmination of twenty years of environmental accounting development by the ABS. The AEEA brings together in one place all the environmental accounts produced by the ABS including accounts for water, energy and waste as well as, among other things, measures of environmental assets. A number of non-ABS data sources are included. Examples of the policy relevance of these accounts are described in the ABS Completing the Picture: Environmental Accounting in Practice which is available online at: http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/4628.0.55.001May%202012
Estimates contained in the AEEA are presented on a financial year basis. The estimates relate to a range of environmental themes - some of these estimates are sourced from well-developed data production systems, while other estimates have only recently been developed. As a result, some the data contained in the AEEA are timelier than others. The most recent data contained in the AEEA relate to the last complete financial year at the time of release. The AEEA, therefore, is being released within one year of the reference period for most data.
Accuracy remains the main focus of ABS quality management. In the case of environmental accounts it is recognised internationally that an objective accuracy measure - in the sense of proximity to a 'true value' - is difficult to quantify. The AEEA is a complex set of environmental and economic statistics combining a large number of ABS and non-ABS data sources covering various aspects of the environment and the economy to derive a number of statistical tables, including various headline measures.
The AEEA compilation process transforms a range of data into sets of environmental accounts. A number of integrated measures are produced, including efficiency/productivity measures designed to assess the decoupling of economic growth from various environmental pressures. Typically, the production of these integrated measures requires adjustments to underlying data in order to ensure a consistent conceptual basis to the data. These adjustments involve the use of various methods, data and assumptions. Further information on these is included in the Explanatory Notes of the AEEA.
Given the variety of data used, and the adjustments/transformations undertaken in the compilation of the AEEA, an overall assessment of accuracy is necessarily subjective. It involves an assessment of underlying data; the adjustments and transformations made - including assumptions used. The ABS aims to achieve best practice in each of these facets of environmental accounts compilation. While the related concept of reliability can be objectively measured by an analysis of revisions, this does not necessarily indicate the quality of data series.
A key characteristic of environmental accounts, especially in comparison with other types of environmental information, is its coherence - both among the various items of environmental information and with related economic accounts. For example, many sets of environmental indicators are often appropriate for their designed purpose but cannot be integrated with other environmental information or with economic information - thus limiting their usefulness and limiting capacity to assess data quality. The AEEA in contrast is based on the principles and structures of the SEEA and represents a cohesive, integrated set of environmental and economic information.
The AEEA, like the Australian System of National Accounts, makes extensive use of supply and use tables to confront related data and guide resolution of data anomalies. The AEEA takes the additional step of not only confronting related physical environmental datasets - but also of confronting related monetary and physical measures. In order to support this confrontation process, all data must be presented using the same definitions, scope, classifications and standards. The AEEA is a powerful tool for building coherence among related environment and economic datasets.
The AEEA provides extensive analysis and commentary in its Main Findings section. This section uses commentary, graphs and tables to guide reader understanding and interpretation of the detailed data tables. The Explanatory Notes of the AEEA provide further guidance on the data used in AEEA, along with links to supporting environmental accounts publications for further information on concepts, methodologies and data sources.
The interpretation of environmental accounts is assisted by an understanding of the policy context in which these data are used. This is further elaborated in ABS Completing the Picture: Environmental Accounting in Practice which is available online at: http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/4628.0.55.001May%202012
The AEEA contains feature articles intended especially to assist user understanding and use of new data products and developments.