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  • Writer's pictureFiona Smith

New paper: Public policy uses of the SEEA stocks and flows accounts

A new paper focuses on the System of Environmental Economic Accounting Central Framework stocks and flows accounts, where they are used to support public policy-making in high-priority areas such as climate change, environmental sustainability, the circular economy, and to feed into indicators, dashboards and other frameworks.

Fig.1 The SEEA Information Pyramid,

The System of Environmental Economic Accounting Central Framework (SEEA-CF) was adopted by the UN Statistical Commission in 2012. It's an integration tool, or a system of tools, which complements the System of National Accounts to produce standardised environmental-economic statistics. It created the first international standard for linking economic and environmental data. In one decade, it has expanded to 92 countries, including most OECD countries. However, there is still work to be done by national statistics producers to increase the use of SEEA statistics.

A new paper focuses on the SEEA stocks and flows accounts, providing examples of where they are already used to support public policy making in high-priority areas such as

  • climate change,

  • environmental sustainability,

  • the circular economy,

  • management of ecosystems and freshwater,

  • feeding into indicators, dashboards and other related frameworks.

Although the examples show that SEEA statistics are already informing public policy making in many countries, there are still important “influence gaps”. The second part of this paper discusses why these gaps exist and what can be done about them, something well worth delving into.

The G20 Data Gaps Initiative, launched in January 2023, has climate change statistics as one of its four core pillars and nature statistics must play a larger role in future. Governments’ growing interest in environmental sustainability has led to pressure for the national accounts to provide more complete estimates of natural capital assets than they do at present. The 2025 System of National Accounts will include estimates of renewable mineral and energy resources (such as wind, solar, water and geothermal power) and enhanced guidance on assets like uncultivated biological resources. It will also provide detailed guidance on how to measure and value natural capital. The SEEA (various stocks and flows accounts) will be a key source of data for these estimates, particularly if SEEA compilers provide them as monetary values so that they can be used directly by national accountants.

Who are the users?

Previous studies, such as Rujis et al. (2019), identified three main categories:

Public sector decision makers across government agencies responsible for natural resources, including land, and agencies responsible for cross-sectoral strategic direction, planning, budgeting, or monitoring for achievement of sustainable economic development.

Research and analytical institutions, within and outside of government.

Business and civil society.

This study focuses on the first category: use of evidence from SEEA in the public policy sphere, but also makes a quick detour to explore their relevance for decision making by the private sector. As noted in the US National Strategy to Develop Statistics for Environmental-Economic Decisions (White House, 2023), environmental-economic accounts are mportant for lending by investors and banks and borrowing by firms:

“A system of natural capital accounts puts nature in language that investors and banks understand. It enables banks to identify connections between natural assets and their loan books, leading to shifts in lending practices. When reliable data are not available, making such claims may expose firms to legal and reputational risk, and the inability to make such claims may limit access to financing, insurance, and market share. A Federal system of environmental-economic statistics will help de-risk these claims by providing an official data source and demonstrates a systematic accounting system that firms can safely emulate or build upon.”

You can access the paper HERE

Clarke, D., S. Sakata and S. Barahona (2023), "Public policy uses of the SEEA stocks and flows accounts", OECD Statistics Working Papers, No. 2023/02, OECD Publishing, Paris,

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