SEEA Revision: Accounting for Sustainability?
The 1993 United Nations System for integrated Environmental and Economic Accounting (SEEA) aimed at measuring the - environmental - sustainability of economic performance and growth in terms of produced and natural capital maintenance. To this end it advanced "greened" economic indicators, notably Environmentally-adjusted net Domestic Product (EDP) and Capital Formation (ECF). A revised (draft) version of the 1993 handbook, entitled "Integrated Environmental and Economic Accounting 2003" (IEEA), is now available on the web site of the United Nations Statistics Division. Despite its extensive discussion of sustainable development, the IEEA 2003 fails in measuring overall sustainability as it shuns monetary valuation of environmental impacts in a modular framework for physical, hybrid and - selective - monetary accounts. The revision thus missed an opportunity to bridge the persisting dichotomy between ecological and economic sustainability analysis. Future work should explore and test the capability of material flow and environmentally adjusted economic indicators to capture the elusive notions of strong and weak sustainability of economic activity.
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