On 27 April 2018 the Meeting of Commonwealth, state and territory environment ministers endorsed a strategy to deliver a common national approach to environmental-economic accounting in Australia. Environmental-economic accounting helps us understand the condition of our environment, and its relationship with our economy. The strategy will ensure that coherent, comprehensive and integrated accounts are built and support public sector and business decision making at all levels – farm-enterprise-region-state-national – and across all sectors.
A better understanding
Environmental assets such as land, soil, minerals, rivers, oceans and biodiversity underpin economic growth and our standard of living. Yet the environment’s contribution to our prosperity and wellbeing are often overlooked in decision‑making by governments, business and the community.
While great progress has been made in monitoring and reporting on the environment, existing environmental information does not provide sufficient insight into long term environmental trends, or adequately account for the services and benefits being provided by the environment to society and the economy. As a result, environmental, economic and social decisions are often made in isolation of each other, and don’t reflect the full range of impacts, benefits and trade-offs.
Tracking changes in environmental assets over time can help us understand if our natural resources are being depleted and if their condition is improving or declining. When this information is integrated with socioeconomic data, a more complete picture can be presented to decision makers on how to optimise social, economic and environmental outcomes, and to appropriately minimise the risk of environmental degradation. Environmental-economic accounting provides this.
A more efficient approach
At a national level, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has supported environmental‑economic accounting in Australia, producing a selected set of environmental‑economic accounts annually. Beyond this work, there have been state and territory efforts to integrate environmental and economic information into decision making including the piloting of accounts at different scales and timeframes.
A common national approach is needed to bring this work together, improve consistency and minimise duplication of effort, and to increase collaboration across government and the broader community on user driven accounts.
Creating better outcomes
A nationally consistent approach to environmental-economic accounting will help address current information gaps and bring together environmental and economic information in a coherent way, allowing comparisons and aggregation across state and territory borders.
The information provided by these accounts supports evidence-based environmental policy making, better targeted natural resource management, nationally consistent reporting on Australia’s environment, investment decisions and more sustainable practices across all sectors.