Integrating the environmental and economic information systems

Latest release
Australian System of National Accounts: Concepts, Sources and Methods
Reference period
2020-21 financial year

23.225    A comprehensive national environmental information system should be built on two pillars:

  1. the essential bio-physical information pertaining to the state of the environment; and
  2. the complementary socio-economic information on drivers, pressures, impacts and responses.

23.226    The pillars should be 'integrated' to ensure that the bio-physical and socio-economic dimensions of environmental issues can be considered concurrently in policy formulation and in other decision making. Integration is achieved by the use of common frameworks, classifications and standards. The information in each pillar should be organised so that, for each environmental domain of interest, users could seamlessly move from the bio-physical aspects to the socio-economic aspects and vice versa.

23.227    This implies that there should be a common logic for organising both the bio-physical and socio-economic information. Such logic could be built around the various environmental domains (e.g. water, air, land) organised in a driver-pressure-state-impact-response (DPSIR) framework – as depicted in Figure 23.2 below. The integration of information would also ensure that environmental issues that cut across domains, such as biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions can be appropriately analysed.

Figure 23.2 The DPSIR framework

Figure 23.2 The DPSIR framework

Figure 23.2 The DPSIR framework

The image illustrates the driver-pressure-state-impact-response (DPSIR) framework. It describes the interactions between society (Socio-economic) and environment (Biophysical). The flow chart starts with Driver and then flows onto Pressure. Next is a flow to State, then a flow to Impact and finally to Response. Flows from Response can be to any of the previous four items.

23.228    The physical stores of information could be disparate, with the expectation that much of the bio-physical information would be stored by agencies such as the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) and much of the socio-economic information would be stored by the ABS. However, the information for both pillars would be locatable and accessed through a single portal. From a user perspective, there would be a single virtual information system, although the source of particular information sets would be clearly identifiable within this system.

23.229    To develop such a virtual information system and to achieve integration, the ABS, BoM and other agencies would work in partnership. This would involve working together on relevant frameworks, standards and classifications, as well as the underlying logic for organising environmental information, including determining appropriate metadata requirements. Developing and maintaining the portal would be a joint responsibility of the contributing agencies.

23.230    Figure 23.3 below illustrates the domain that integrated environmental-economic accounts seek to inform – in particular, it is the interaction between the economy and the environment that is the focus of our information framework. The figure further describes the various agencies engaged in integrating environmental and economic information systems, and the location of their primary institutional responsibilities.

Figure 23.3 Integrating information systems - Primary institutional responsibilities

Figure 23.3 Integrating information systems - Primary institutional responsibilities

Figure 23.3 Integrating information systems - Primary institutional responsibilities

The image illustrates the domain that integrated environmental-economic accounts seek to inform. It shows the interaction between the economy and the environment.

Listed under Economy are: Industries, Households, and Government.

Listed under Environment are: Mineral and energy resources, Timber resources, Fish resources, Water resources, Soil resources, Land, and Ecosystems.

The image shows that Residuals (e.g. air emissions, solid waste, return flows of water) flow from the economy to the environment.

Natural inputs (e.g minerals, energy, timber, fish and water) flow from the environment to the economy.

Products are produced by the economy.

  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES), Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources (DISRE), Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C), Productivity Commission (PC), Treasury, state/territory organisations, etc.
  2. ABARES, Bureau of Meteorology (BoM), Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE), Geoscience Australia, Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA), state/territory organisations, etc.
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