Environmental–Economic Accounting: Progress and Digression in the SEEA Revisions


  • Note: I am grateful for the editor's and two reviewers' comments, which helped streamline and improve this commentary.


The 1992 Earth Summit and its message of sustainable development drove the launching of a System for integrated Environmental and Economic Accounting, the SEEA. Since then, sustainable development and the SEEA have given way to green growth and green economy indicators in the latest 2012 Summit. A lengthy revision process has now produced a curtailed “SEEA central framework.” The new framework focuses on expenditures for environmental protection and resource management, and stocks and flows of “economic” resources; both are covered by the conventional national accounts. Environmental degradation, notably from pollution, is left to “experimental” ecosystem accounts. Further revision of the SEEA should reverse this retrenchment from integrative environmental–economic accounting. A comprehensive satellite system, rather than a limited statistical standard, might put the SEEA back on the policy agenda.