Austria moves ahead on green accounting

Environment, economy, integrated for eight air pollutants, work planned on waste, water

Progress in European efforts to combine environmental and economic statistics in a system of "green accounting" has been highlighted by a report now being finalised by the Austrian environment agency and national statistics office.

In a collaborative project, the two organisations have combined air emissions data for key air pollutants with industrial sector codes, yielding detailed descriptions of air emissions in 60 different economic sectors. The methodology enables a rich new set of environmental indicators to be generated, according to the Austrian environment agency, including emissions per employee, emissions per unit of output and emissions per unit of value added.

The Austrian report is one among several prepared by EU countries since 1989, according to Eurostat, the EU statistical agency, but is also one of the best in terms of data quality and detail.

The methodology used in the report is known as NAMEA, or "national accounts matrix including environmental accounts". First developed in the Netherlands, NAMEA has been increasingly applied following a 1994 European Commission communication on environmental indicators and green national accounting.

Emissions of eight air pollutants were included in the Austrian study: carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, other volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides, ammonia, sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide. Reporting of the eight gases is already required of EU and some other states under the European Environment Agency-led Corinair programme.

The Austrian innovation has been to build a detailed matrix to "transform" information on the 400 process-based sources of air emissions into standard NACE economic codes. Previously, Jörg Hanauer of the Austrian environment agency told ENDS Daily, it was possible to identify just a handful of sectoral emissions sources, such as agriculture and industry. The more detailed transformation enables identification of the role of 60 separate economic sectors in contributing to emissions of the eight gases.

The new statistical framework will bring a wide range of benefits, according to Mr Hanauer. "If you want to reduce emissions in the economy, you can see where you have to start," he said. "If you look at the [trend] of emissions for each economic class you can see how well policies have worked." Thirdly, he continued, the environmental performance of economic sectors can be compared internationally.

Looking ahead, Mr Hanauer said, integrated environmental and economic reporting of the type developed here would enable annual emissions forecasts. A range of specific indicators could also be developed. Following this report, he said, the agency was now looking to apply the NAMEA model to Austrian water and waste.

Follow Up:
Austrian environment agency, tel: +43 1 31304; Austrian statistical agency, tel: +43 1 700 1128; Eurostat, tel: +352 430 111.

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