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UN DESA Supports Member States in Developing and Strengthening Environment Statistics and Integrated Environmental-Economic Accounting

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Integrated information and high-quality statistics are not only essential elements in the promulgation of evidence-based policy and decision making, they are also key to monitoring the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Given the critical role of high-quality environmental and integrated socio-economic statistics, the United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs implemented a project titled “Supporting Member States in Developing and Strengthening Environment Statistics and Integrated Environmental-Economic Accounting for the Improved Monitoring of Sustainable Development.”  The programme’s objectives included working to strengthen the national capacities of developing countries for the sustained and regular production of a priority set of environmental statistics and environmental-economic accounts that included the resultant indicators, as well as measuring overall progress towards the SDGs. As part of this project, a regional workshop was organised in Nairobi, Kenya from 11 to 13 December 2017 in collaboration with the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, and the United Nations Environment Programme. Focalised on the implementation of the System of Environmental Economic Accounting (SEEA), the workshop provided a unique opportunity for the project countries of Kenya and Uganda to present not only their finalised national plans, but also their experiences drafting them, as well as sharing information regarding their respective energy and water pilot accounts. Participants from countries in the region – including Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zambia – also shared their experiences on SEEA implementation and a rich and fruitful discussion on lessons learned ensued.

SEEA organises and presents statistics on the dynamic relationship between the environment and the economy. It is a statistical system that brings environmental and economic information together into a common framework to measure environmental conditions, contributions of the environment to the economy, and the impact of the economy on the environment. The SEEA contains an internationally agreed upon set of standards, concepts, definitions, classifications, accounting rules, and tables to produce comparable international statistics that help to facilitate better informed decision making. This system of environmental-economic accounting offers unique perspectives on the monitoring of:

  • the pressures exerted by the economy on the environment through the extraction of natural resources and the production and discharging of emissions;
  • the impact of changes in environmental conditions;
  • and how the economy responds to pressures on the environment through expenditures for environmental protection and natural resource management and environmental taxes.

Ultimately, the SEEA can be viewed as a holistic, multi-purpose information system that can be employed to generate a wide range of statistics and indicators with far-reaching, multi-faceted potential for analytical applications.  Because of the integrated nature of the system, it provides a useful framework for the SDG indicators allowing measurement of trade off and synergies of integrated policies.

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