Publisher: Resources for the Future Date of Publication: 2005
Price: ISBN: 1 891853 94 5
Pages: xiv + 255 Format: Paperback

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1 - National environmental accounts; 2 - Concepts and conventional national income accounting; 3 - Structure of the conventional income accounts; 4 - Overview of the revised SEEA; 5 - Pollution accounting: the physical side; 6 - Pollution accounting: what are we spending now?; 7 - Pollution accounting: policy questions; 8 - Resource accounting; 9 - Forest accounts; 10 - Subsoil assess accounts; 11 - Fisheries, land and water accounts; 12 - Macroeconomic indicators in the SEEA; 13 - Macroeconomic measures outside the SEEA.



Recently, the need to quantify environmental change has become a key issue. This may have been triggered off by work such as Constanza's ideas of environmental services (R. Costanza et al., Nature 387, 253-260 (1997) although it is possible to see changes before that with the growth of environmental impact assessment and its variants. Taking this last route we can see a move from specific site through to region (strategic impact assessment) to a more global view. It's this last one that this author focusses on and especially the US version.

In fact, this author links the start of accounting to the Stockholm Conference in 1972 and the literature it produced. Wherever the actual starting point might be, the first chapter shows the growth in such concerns over the past 30 years. One of the first main points is that it is a loose concept rather than a tightly defined idea. For this reason, chapter two is devoted to outlining some of the main concepts behind the traditional income accounting system which is done as a precursor to branching out into more comprehensive pictures of production and consumption. This is backed up by chapter three which demonstrates how data are analysed and displayed. By this stage, the reader has a fair idea about the way in which traditional accounts can be used to gather economic data. This basic principles are then taken and enlarged upon in chapter four which examines the idea of SEEA (system of economic and environmental accounting). The various components are described (physical, monetary and environmental) and tables are given to show what data might be collected and displayed. Chapter five shifts focus to look at pollution. It's clear that this is a major issue but it also highlights some of the problems we face - how to identify and quantify an item in traditional terms when it's so difficult to quantify. This is continued in chapter six where the emphasis is on the nature of pollution data collected and what is included/excluded. The next stage is to see how this accounting system might affect policy-making (chapter 7). So far, the debate has centred around a limited set of environmental concepts. The aim of the following 4 chapters is to show how this could be applied to a number of other key areas e.g. natural resources, forests, soil and fisheries. Each of these is discussed in terms of the main SEEA model and, where applicable, in terms of other systems currently operating (e.g. EU). The final two chapters look at the macroeconomic picture both in terms of what the accounting system can (chapter 12) and cannot (chapter 13) include.

This is an interesting book. It tries to outline a very complex and technically difficult system without delving too much in the jargon that might exclude some readers. Having said that it is obvious that some level of economic ability is needed which would restrict the text to educator or undergraduate readers. This being said, it's a very good introduction to the topic and one from which we can judge what seems sure to be an increasing output on this topic.


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