Australian Bureau of Statistics
4655.0.55.001 - Towards an integrated environmental-economic account for Australia, 2010
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 25/11/2010
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Therefore the key limitation of the economic information system is that it is not capable of answering the higher order questions policy-makers (and society) are asking. In particular, it does not describe the relationship between the environment and economy.
The Environmental Information System
It is widely recognised that the information used to support policy development and decision-making in relation to Australia’s environment is inadequate. The Commonwealth State of the Environment Report 2006 said:
Since then, others such as the Hawke Review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, the ANAO and the Wentworth Group have also noted fundamental problems with the system.
Because Australia faces numerous environmental issues across a range of domains, there are many individuals and organisations collecting environmental information, often with a particular scientific, regulatory or administrative purpose in mind. This results in a highly fragmented set of data which suffers from a range of problems including:
• independence from any framework which facilities data linkage or interconnectivity
• inconsistent frequency and timing
• poor spatial representation
• low levels of visibility, discoverability and accessibility
• lack of time series and therefore lack of stability over time
• poor capacity to support modelling and forecasting
Accordingly, there is significant frustration when trying to articulate the state of the environment, or in trying to address particular environmental issues that span jurisdictions and regions. It also becomes extremely difficult to understand, model or forecast the impact of a policy intervention collectively across the environment, economy and society.
In order to address our environmental issues it is essential that there is comprehensive, high quality information. Information about the state of the environment, including change, is a vital component. The state of the environment relates to the bio-physical attributes of environmental domains and is essentially scientific in nature.
The quality and extent of bio-physical information on environmental issues is mixed. Comprehensive and good quality information exists for some aspects, such as temperature and rainfall. However, in other areas, particularly those relating to ecosystems, the scientific information base is patchy, lacks integration and ‘national’ data sets are typically unavailable. As a result, the Australian Government has identified a high priority need for additional investments in bio-physical information, and has commissioned the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) to develop a National Plan for Environmental Information (NPEI) as an initial step towards improved monitoring of the state of Australia’s land, ocean, air and water resources.
Although responsibilities for managing natural resources and protecting the environment are institutionally separated from the economy, neither exists in isolation. Fundamental socio-economic forces drive human activities, which lead to pressures on the state of the environment. The state of the environment impacts on human well-being, and responses to manage the state have socio-economic consequences.
Therefore, a comprehensive analysis of environmental issues, and the policy responses to deal with these, must be informed by socio-economic information about drivers, pressures, impacts and responses. And this information should be integrated with the associated bio-physical information so that relationships and linkages can be properly understood.
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This page last updated 24 November 2010