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Video Summary: A guide to Environmental Accounts

Released: 12 April 2013

This podcast explains the work undertaken to produce the Environmental Accounts within the Office for National Statistics. The podcast, the first in a series, will provide an outline of the outputs and developments within the Environmental Accounts.

The Environment Accounts are produced as part of the National Well-being programme.  National Well-being aims to go beyond GDP by providing a multi dimensional measure of progress of society, economy, quality of life, the environment and sustainability by providing an accepted and trusted set of National Statistics to help people understand and monitor national well-being.

Environmental Accounts are “satellite accounts” to the main National Accounts. Satellite accounts are extensions to National Accounts, which facilitate analysis of the wider impact of economic change.

In order to produce and develop these accounts the ONS works closely with other organisations, the:

  • Department for food and rural affairs.

  • Department for energy and climate change

  • Forestry Commission to name but a few.

The effect of mankind’s activity upon the environment has been an important policy issue throughout the last part of the twentieth century. Environmental accounts measure what impacts the economy has on the environment (e.g. pollution) and how the environment contributes to the economy (e.g. use of raw materials, resource efficiency, etc.)

The Environmental Accounts can be thought of as having three components:

  • Natural Resource (Asset) Accounts.

  • Physical Flow Accounts,

  • Monetary Accounts

Natural Resource (Asset) Accounts measure the use of raw materials which occur in nature that can be used for economic production or consumption. Examples of natural resource accounts within the Environmental Accounts are Oil and Gas Reserves, Land Cover and Forestry.

Physical Flows Accounts provide information on the total mass of natural resources and products used by the economy, for example biomass.

It also provides information on the pressure that the use of natural resources have on human well-being, for example greenhouse gases or radioactive waste.  Examples of physical flow accounts within the Environmental Accounts are Energy Consumption, Atmospheric Emissions, Material Flows, Water Use and Waste.

Monetary Accounts measure the flow of money around the economy.  Examples of monetary accounts within the Environmental Account are Environmental Taxes and Environmental Protection Expenditure.

Within the natural resource accounts are:

Oil and gas reserves which provide information in physical and monetary terms.

Land cover which reports on the amount and condition of habitats and landscapes in Great Britain.

Forestry accounts which provide information on woodland area, diversity and consumption of wood products in Great Britain.

Fishing which gives information on selected catches and stocks in three sea regions.

Within the physical flow accounts are:

Fossil fuel and energy consumption which provide a breakdown of fossil fuel use and energy consumption by source and by industry. 

Atmospheric emissions which provide a breakdown of greenhouse gas emissions by types of gases and by industry.

Material flows presents information on the total mass of natural resources and products used by the UK.

Waste estimates for the total waste arising in the UK, including information on radioactive waste.

Water use accounts show the amounts of ground water and non-tidal surface water used by Industrial Sector in England and Wales.

Within the monetary accounts are:

Environmental taxes which provides information on government revenue from environmental taxes i.e. how they are levied rather than how they are spent.

Environmental protection expenditure which provides a breakdown of environmental protection expenditure by General Government and the UK industry.

Future Developments:

Additionally, statistics are being developed to measure the green economy more effectively and by so doing improve decision making which impact the environment.  These statistics are being developed using international standards in order for comparisons to be made across Europe and beyond.

These development areas are:

  • Environmental Goods and Services Sector

  • Environmental Protection Expenditure

  • Natural Capital Evaluation

  • Single Framework Sustainability Indicator Set

Put simply the Environmental Goods and Services Sector (EGSS) is the production of goods and services, of which the prime objective is environmental protection or resource management. 

Environmental Protection Expenditure (EPE) is spending incurred, of which the primary aim is to reduce, prevent or eliminate pollution and degradation of the environment. 

Natural capital valuation is the measurement of natural caputal in physical and monetary terms.  An example of which is woodlands and the ecosystem services woodlands provide.

There is a currently a strong overlap between sustainability indicator frameworks.  ONS will work with its partners to produce a single framework.

All of the measures outlined in this podcast are intended to inform decision making whilst improving the understanding of the UK position in the global green economy.

As you can see the Environment Accounts are a wide ranging and complex set of accounts.  Future podcasts will discuss each of these accounts separately and in more detail.

A short video from the Office for National Statistics providing a guide to Environmental Accounts.

Source: Office for National Statistics

Background notes

  1. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/assessment/code-of-practice/index.html or from the Media Relations Office email: media.relations@ons.gsi.gov.uk

    These National Statistics are produced to high professional standards and released according to the arrangements approved by the UK Statistics Authority.

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