4655.0.55.001 - Towards an integrated environmental-economic account for Australia, 2010  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 25/11/2010   
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Informing policy

For government, it is not enough to know and understand the environmental condition. If it wishes to put policies in place to mitigate and to adapt, it needs to be able to forecast the impact on the economy and on society. Similarly, if it is determining economic or societal policy, it needs to take into account the impact on the environment. A system of environmental-economic accounts is important for an understanding of the inter-relationships, and the potential impact of particular policy positions going beyond the physical measures, to provide an insight into impacts on particular industries, communities and businesses, including the impact of regulation, charges and incentives.

Linking environmental data with socio-economic data will assist policy-makers by:

    • enabling analysis of the impact of economic policies on the environment and vice versa
    • providing a quantitative basis for policy design
    • identifying the socio-economic drivers, pressures, impacts and responses that affect the environment
    • supporting greater precision in the development of environmental regulations and resource management strategies
    • providing indicators that express the relationships between the environment and the economy
    • following an international standard (facilitating international comparisons)
    • organising information within a conceptual framework that ensures consistency, completeness and accountability over time

The regular production of environmental-economic accounts will provide analysts with timely data, in turn allowing data deficiencies to be identified and addressed in a more timely and systematic manner. They will also support a regular and informed dialogue between decision-makers and the broader community on important environmental and socioeconomic issues.

International work

Increasing numbers of developed and developing countries have introduced environmental-economic accounts , compiling different components according to their environmental concerns and priorities. Resource-rich countries have typically developed asset accounts to help design policies for better natural resource management. Countries in which pollution is a significant concern have developed physical flow accounts and environmental protection accounts to analyse the impact of consumption and production patterns on the environment and the impact of environmental expenditure in reducing emissions.

Countries with constraints on space for human activity, like Germany, have led the development of land use and land cover accounting. While many other countries, such as the Netherlands, have devoted particular effort to the compilation of pollution emissions accounts.