Towards Global SEEA Databases


Recent progress in material flow and air emission accounts

To ensure the use of SEEA accounts in measuring progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its use in integrated policy analyses, the UNCEEA has placed strong emphasis and priority on the development of global databases. In particular, the UNCEEA has prioritized air emission, energy flow, economy-wide material flow and land accounts. The strategy is to use nationally available SEEA accounts whenever possible and to complement these with estimates for those countries that do not yet compile them by using internationally available sources. The UNCEEA has recently made significant progress on internationally comparable  material flow accounts (MFA) and air emission accounts.

Material Flow Accounts

UN Environment has contributed to the work in developing global material flow databases under the UNCEEA, and in preparing a global manual on economy wide material flow accounts with other international partners. UN Environment and the International Resource Panel have recently made available a global database on material flows and a corresponding visualization centre. The UN Environment International Resource Panel Global Material Flows Database was produced as part of a collaborative effort by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO, Australia), the Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU Vienna, Austria), the Institute of Social Ecology Vienna (SEC, Austria), the University of Nagoya (Japan), and the University of Sydney’s Integrated Sustainability Analysis (ISA, Australia). This global database covers most countries of the world and reports material extraction, trade, material footprints and material intensity for four material groups (biomass, metal ores, non-metallic minerals and fossil fuels). It presents production and demand-based material flow indicators on total usage, per capita use, and material use per USD for the SDG regions as well as 193 individual countries. The database is compiled and maintained by UN Environment and the International Resource Panel.

The data provided by the Global MFA Database and the Visualization Centre can be used as a starting point to assist governments, policy researchers and stakeholders in developing a better understanding of how economic growth patterns influence resource use, evaluating the impacts of policies that have been adopted in the past developing effective strategies to minimize future resource use through targeted sustainable consumption and production policies and actions.

To provide guidance for national statistical offices in compiling national MFA, UN Environment has prepared a Global Economy Wide Material Flow Accounting Manual. The manual builds on the economy wide material flow accounting guidelines of Eurostat and the OECD, and on earlier OECD work on national material flow accounts. It was designed to be fit for purpose for developing countries and is an important development in furthering the establishment of national MFA around the world. A global consultation for the manual was held from February to March 2019 to acquire feedback from experts in all national statistical offices and relevant stakeholders around the world. At its fiftieth session, the United Nations Statistical Commission welcomed the finalization of the manual and encouraged its implementation in countries.

This is complemented by work led by the OECD in cooperation with Eurostat and UN Environment, on an internationally harmonised methodology for estimating demand-based material flows and material productivity, and the further development of the underlying statistical infrastructure, including multi-regional input-output databases. A related guide is planned to become available in 2020-21.

Air Emission Accounts

As part of the UNCEEA, the OECD is the lead agency in developing global SEEA databases. The OECD has recently made significant progress in further developing global SEEA air emission accounts. In collaboration with Eurostat, the OECD makes available officially reported national air emission accounts for European Union countries, Australia, Canada, Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey and Serbia.

Given the importance of air emission accounts for integrated policy analyses and the monitoring of the Paris Climate Agreement, the OECD recently developed a methodology to estimate SEEA air emission accounts to complement the officially reported accounts. The OECD methodology is based on the detailed national inventories submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) by Annex-I countries. This methodology is documented and tested in an OECD Working Paper, and it has been endorsed by the SEEA Technical Committee and the UNCEEA.

Based on the OECD methodology, the OECD has published estimated SEEA air emission accounts for Japan, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the United States in a dedicated database in January 2019, after communicating with the countries and explicitly flagging the results as OECD estimates. The estimated air emission accounts cover the most prominent greenhouse gas emissions (CO2, CH4 and N2O emissions), both from fuel combustion and other sources, and are available for the years 2007 to 2016. The OECD estimates can be accessed here.

The OECD makes use of the estimated air emission accounts in deriving CO2 emissions embodied in international trade, the OECD Environmental Performance Reviews and integrated policy analyses. The OECD plans to further expand on these estimates in the future by including emissions related to land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) and providing a residence-territory adjustment, as the estimates currently follow the territory principle. In addition, future work will focus on providing estimates for non-Annex I countries and additional types of air emissions.