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History and current activities
UNSD developed and published in 1984 A Framework for the Development of Environment Statistics (FDES). The FDES sets out the scope of environment statistics by relating the components of the environment to information categories that are based on the recognition that environmental problems are the result of human activities and natural events reflecting a sequence of action, impact, and reaction. Relevant information, therefore, refers to social and economic activities and natural events, their effects on the environment, and the responses to these effects by the society. The contents of the FDES are "statistical topics"; they are those aspects of environmental concerns that can be subjected to statistical description and analysis.
The FDES was accompanied by two reports in 1988 and 1991 entitled Concepts and Methods of Environment Statistics, one on human settlements and the other on the natural environment. These reports describe detailed sets of statistical variables within the FDES; they are to facilitate the identification and selection of statistical series for national and international data collection. Although the reports do not make recommendations for the implementation of a statistical programme, they provide a starting point for the identification of appropriate statistical series and have been used by many countries for organizing environmental and related socio-economic information. They have also been used for assessing data availability or gaps in statistical programmes and selecting high priority statistics and indicators.
UNSD developed a set of environmental indicators in collaboration with several developed and developing countries and international organizations participating in the Inter-governmental Working Group on the Advancement of Environment Statistics. The fourth meeting of the Working Group (Stockholm, 6 - 10 February 1995) agreed on the List of environmental and related socioeconomic indicators. The Statistical Commission, at its twenty-eighth session (New York, 27 February - 3 March 1995), approved this list for international compilation by UNSD.
UNSD published a Glossary of Environment Statistics in 1997 consisting of approximately 1200 environmental terms. It is a quick reference tool for terms and definitions relevant to environmental data production and use.
Based on the list of environmental indicators approved by the Statistical Commission, UNSD conducted the first international data collection in all countries (except members of OECD) in 1999. The data collection was repeated in 2001/2002. The lessons learned in the course of these very first attempts at collecting environment statistics from non-industrialized countries contributed to significant revisions of the questionnaire. The core themes of the Questionnaire 2004 on Environment Statistics refer to water resources and pollution, air pollution, waste generation and management, land use and land degradation. The data collection was joined by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 2004 and has been established on a biennial basis as part of UNSD's data collection programme. Since 2006, the Questionnaire on Environment Statistics, focuses on Water and Waste.
UNSD continues to develop the Environment Statistics Database that contains data received through the Questionnaire on Environment Statistics. With the improvement of coverage and data quality, the Environment Statistics Database will gradually provide the basis for regular dissemination of environment statistics. UNSD environmental indicators derived from these data are now available.
As part of the methodological work of UNSD, environment statistics compilation manuals are being prepared to support the Questionnaire and to provide countries guidance and best practices in the development and production of basic environment statistics that is the precondition for any efforts aiming at the production of environmental indicators and accounts.
UNSD cooperates closely with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Statistical Office of the European Communities (Eurostat), UNEP, the UN Division of Sustainable Development (DSD) and the regional commissions, as well as with specialized agencies, secretariats of international conventions, NGOs and others, in order to build up synergies, and to avoid duplication of efforts in data collection. Between 1991-1995 the Inter-governmental Working Group for the Advancement of Environment Statistics played a significant role in the coordination of the development of environment statistics between international organizations and countries. More recently the Statistical Commission empowered UNSD to convene an Intersecretariat Working Group on Environment Statistics (IWG-Env) to coordinate and harmonize development of standards, methods, data collection and capacity building programmes in environment statistics and to provide linkages to statistics on sustainable development and environmental-economic accounting. The IWG-Env was established in 2003.