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NEWS from the
United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD)

Issue 10                         January 2001 - August 2001


Stefan Schweinfest, Chief,
Statistical Development and Analysis Section (UNSD) and
Maila Puolamaa, Chief, Environment Statistics Section (UNSD)

DEVELOPMENT INDICATORS – Environment and Energy Indicators

With the proliferation of major United Nations conferences and summits, there has been an increased demand on countries for indicators. The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), in its resolutions 1999/55 and 2000/27, has called for an integrated and coordinated follow-up to all conferences and summits, a balanced monitoring of conference commitments and a full participation and ownership of Member States in this work.

ECOSOC invited the Statistical Commission to serve as the intergovernmental focal point for the review of conference indicators. The Commission, at its 32nd session held in March 2001, considered the work as an opportunity to contribute its technical expertise to the ongoing debate on indicators, and accepted the invitation to technically validate the existing conference indicators, to elaborate recommendations for a limited list of indicators and to make proposals for a mechanism of statistical review of future indicators. The impacts on national statistical programmes are part of the review.

The Commission approved a work programme for the review of conference indicators and formed a "Friends of the Chair" advisory group (FoC) for the implementation of the work programme. The group consists of Australia, Botswana, China, Italy, Jordan, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Mexico, Palestine, Sweden and the United Kingdom, thus representing the main regions of the world. In addition, seven expert groups for the special fields have been established to review a total of 277 indicators.

The Expert Group on Environment and Energy is working on the statistical review of the environment and energy related indicators that are included in the lists developed by the Commission on Sustainable Development (Indicators of Sustainable Development), the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat II), and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) (International Development Goals). There are 51 environmental and energy related indicators under review.

The technical evaluation focuses on the statistical aspects of the indicators: definitions, classifications, methods used in data production at the national and international level, data availability and quality, etc. However, the bridge between the policy concern and the indicators is maintained. It is the policy maker who determines the focus and scope of the follow-up indicators. Depending on the policy concern, the focus of the indicator may vary from the human activities that contribute to the issue at hand, through the emissions and discharges of pollutants, to the state of the ecosystems or environment protection measures. The emphasis is determined by the actions desired in international decision-making. The scope of the indicator is determined by its focus, and is largely dependent on the possibilities for data production in countries. Availability of data, or feasibility of data production, may restrict the scope of the indicator to a proxy from the desired one.

The main activities of the development indicators project are as follows:

  • Formation of the FoC and establishing the web site for the project (http://esa.un.org/unsd/indicatorfoc/);
  • Preliminary technical evaluation (TE) by UNSD of the 277 indicators (May-June 2001);
  • Expert Groups further elaborate the TEs and report on their work and the limited list (July- mid August 2001);
  • Expert Group Meeting on Development Indicators, New York 15-19 October 2001;
  • FoC report to the Statistical Commission 2002, November 2001;
  • UNSD Draft for the ECOSOC report, January 2002;
  • 33rd Session of the Statistical Commission, March 2002;
  • Submission of the report to ECOSOC, April 2002.

The project's web site provides a platform for communication within the FoC and between experts working on the indicators. Statisticians and other experts working on environmental and energy statistics and indicators may comment on the technical evaluation of the indicators posted on the web site through October 2001.


The UNSD/CARICOM Project "Strengthening Capacity in the Compilation of Statistics and Indicators for Conference Follow-up in the CARICOM Region", and subsequently the Workshop on Environment Statistics (Belize, August 2000), has spurred a number of initiatives in environment statistics in the region. Some countries have organized national workshops on environment statistics, and several plan to produce environment statistics publications. The Project assisted the Government of St. Lucia to initiate an environment statistics programme by jointly organizing a one-week training session provided by an expert in January 2001 to assist in the production of a national environment statistics publication. As part of the Project, representatives from Grenada and St. Kitts, also participated in the training.

Preparations are underway for the regional publication on environment statistics, which is one of the main outputs of the Project. UNSD and CARICOM developed statistical formats for the compilation of environment statistics and circulated them to the CARICOM Member States in February 2001. The publication will also contain environmental and related socio-economic data from relevant international and regional institutions, as well as data from national statistical yearbooks, to supplement the data received from Member States.

An outline for the publication has been prepared and the overall structure for the chapters of the publication, descriptive text, statistical tables, and chart and graphs are currently being developed. The draft publication is expected to be circulated for comments by mid-September 2001 and will be reviewed by an Expert Group Meeting scheduled to be held in October 2001.

Questionnaire 2001 on Environment Indicators
UNSD has distributed the Questionnaire 2001 (Q2001) on Environment Statistics to all countries that are not covered by the Joint OECD/Eurostat Questionnaire on Environment. The Questionnaire was revised based on the experiences gained from the Questionnaire 1999 on Environmental Indicators, on-going methodological developments in the field of environment statistics as well as consultations with experts of the Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat) and OECD. The scope of the Questionnaire is to collect relevant statistics in four main areas:

  • Water resources, use, pollution and quality;
  • Air pollution and ambient air quality;
  • Waste generation and treatment;
  • Land use and land degradation.

In order to avoid duplication in the data collection, the questionnaire is pre-filled with data received from countries as well as from other institutions and United Nations agencies. The Questionnaire can be filled in electronically or manually. The accompanying Guidance Document contains detailed information on the scope, methodology and definitions applied. The blank, electronic Questionnaire can be downloaded from the Internet as Microsoft EXCEL versions 95, 97, 98 and 2000 files and as a pdf document (http://www.un.org/depts/unsd/enviro/environment.htm).

Responses to the Questionnaire 2001 will be included in the Environment Statistics Database and used for the publication of a Compendium of Environmental Statistics and Indicators. The database contains data on the main environmental topics, water, air, waste and land, as well as information on environmentally-related issues from international institutions, convention secretariats and United Nations agencies.

News from the regional commissions

Sub-regional Training Workshops on Environment Statistics for countries in Asia and the Pacific, by Selma Guven (ESCAP)
As part of its regional capacity-building project for the development of environment statistics in Asia and the Pacific, the Statistics Division of ESCAP with funding by the Government of the Netherlands is holding a series of four sub-regional training workshops.

The first was held in Bangkok in May 2000 with the participation of 15 South East Asian countries (see ENVSTATS Issue 8).

The second, held in Hyderabad, India, from 2 to 14 April 2001 was jointly organized with the Central Statistics Organization (CSO) and the Environment Protection Training Research Institute (EPTRI). The participants were from the national statistical offices and nodal environment agencies of the Governments of Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and India. Experts from the Food and Agricultural Organization, the Philippines, Turkey and India were invited as resource persons to the training.

The third workshop was held for nine Pacific island countries in collaboration with the ESCAP Operations Centre (EPOC) in Port Vila, Vanuatu, from 30 April to 11 May 2001. Ten country representatives and three intergovernmental organizations from the Pacific region, namely the South Pacific Regional Environmental Programme (SPREP), the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) attended the workshop.

The fourth workshop on environment statistics is to be organized in Tehran, Iran, September-October 2001, tentatively. It will address the countries of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), including Central Asian countries in collaboration with ECO.

Additional information about the project and the workshops is available on the website of the Statistics Division of ESCAP (http://www.unescap.org/stat/envstat).

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE): Environmental Indicators, Mikhail Kokine
UNECE established last year an Ad Hoc Working Group on Environmental Monitoring. The mandate of the Working Group is to serve as an instrument for UNECE member States to provide recommendations, propose action plans, and strengthen international initiatives within the region in environmental monitoring and related areas. Environmental indicators is an area where the Working Group is expected to be instrumental.

The Working Group will assist the European Environment Agency (EEA) to produce a third pan-European assessment report on the environment based on region-wide indicators. It will be at the Ministerial Conference "Environment for Europe" to be held in Kiev in May 2003. The work on the indicators for the report provides an opportunity to improve and streamline the development and use of environmental indicators in countries in transition, particularly those not covered by EEA networks. It also challenges relevant international organizations working on environmental indicators in the UNECE region to better coordinate their activities and to improve their reporting on environmental quality changes and the effectiveness of their policies.

At its first session (20-21 September 2001, Geneva), the Working Group will consider a proposal by the EBRD, EEA, OECD, UNECE, UNEP/GRID (Arendal), and the Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe for a joint action to develop a limited set of "headline" or core indicators, which would be specifically useful for countries in transition and relevant international organizations. These headline indicators would be based on the existing OECD and European Union (EU) headline indicators, while recognizing critical social, economic and environmental diversities in countries in transition. (http://www.unece.org/env/europe/meeting1.htm).
E-mail: mikhail.kokine@unece.org.


Staff news

We at Envstats are proud to announce two PhD's in our midst.
Dr. Alessandra Alfieri received her PhD in Statistics from the University of Iowa. Her dissertation was on "The Analysis of Mixed Models".
Dr. Ilaria Di Matteo's dissertation was on "Bayesian Curve Fitting using Free-knot Splines" and she received her PhD in Statistics from Carnegie Mellon University.

Our sincere congratulations go out to them.

Salamat Ali Tabassum, from Brandeis University, Boston, USA, is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Sustainable International Development. As an intern he is assisting UNSD from June to October 2001 in its work on environmental statistics and indicators. In particular, he is working on the UNSD/CARICOM Project and assisting in the preparation of the regional publication on environment statistics.

Sarah Fox Ozkan was an intern with the UNSD Environment Statistics Section during June and July 2001. She received her B.S. from the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment in 1993 and expects to receive her M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies and M.P.Aff. in Public Affairs from the University of Texas in 2002. During her internship in UNSD, she prepared a slide presentation on the activities of the Environment Statistics Section.

About the authors

Mikhail Kokine, economist, graduated from the Moscow State University. Since 1984 he has been working with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe dealing with environmental policy, economics and management. Mr Kokine has been actively involved in Ministerial Conferences "Environment for Europe" and the implementation of the Environmental Programme for Europe.


Visit of Mr. Jean-Louis Weber (IFEN) to UNSD (18-22 December 2000). Mr. Jean-Louis Weber, Director of International Affairs at Institut Francais de l'Environnement (IFEN), visited UNSD, where he discussed the French experience in the development of water accounts. As a result of the collaboration with Mr. Weber, UNSD contributed the first draft of the section on Water Accounting for the Handbook Integrated Environmental and Economic Accounting, SEEA-2000, which is currently being revised by the London Group. Mr. Weber also gave a seminar on "Water Resource Accounting - the French Approach".

Meetings with Eurostat and UNEP/Geneva (18-22 January 2001). The visit involved consultations on the co-operation related to environment statistics with Eurostat and UNEP/Geneva. UNSD and Eurostat agreed on the arrangements necessary for the exchange of environment statistics. In UNEP/Geneva the consultations concerned Earthwatch activities and UNEP/GRID work on the forthcoming Global Environmental Outlook (GEO3).

Thirty-second Session of the Statistical Commission (New York, 6-9 March 2001). The Statistical Commission discussed the report of the London Group on Environmental Accounting on the status of the ongoing revision of the System of integrated Environmental and Economic Accounting (SEEA). The Commission acknowledged the progress made and recommended that a group of Friends of the Chair (FoC), comprised of directors or deputy directors of national statistical offices or equivalent, be created to solve outstanding issues and further steer the process after the final draft is delivered by the London Group to the international agencies. The FoC consists of Brazil, Canada, Ethiopia, Indonesia, the Netherlands, Norway (chair of FoC), Republic of Korea and the United States of America. The revised SEEA will be submitted to the Statistical Commission for its approval at its thirty-third session in 2002. It was agreed that in the meantime an interim (unedited) version of the handbook be published, following approval by the Friends of the Chair.

The ninth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD9) (New York, 16-28 April 2001). The session reviewed issues related to Energy, Transport, Atmosphere, International cooperation for an enabling environment and Information for decision making. In the last issue the CSD9 decided to continue the work on indicators that may form a starting point for national work on the implementation and follow-up of sustainable development. It also recalled ECOSOC's invitation to the Statistical Commission to serve as an intergovernmental focal point for the review of the indicators used by the United Nations system. CSD9 noted that significant gaps exist in the availability of data and encouraged developed countries, with the co-operation of international organizations, to assist developing countries in the strengthening of national information systems and statistical agencies so as to ensure efficient data collection and analysis. International organizations and convention secretariats were asked to rationalize their requests for information and to develop information systems enabling sharing of valuable data.

Fourth Research and Training Workshop on Natural Resource and Environmental Accounting (Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, 24-27 April 2001). The workshop was jointly organized by UNSD, the Natural Resource Accounting in Southern Africa (NRASA) funded by USAID, and the Resource Accounting Network for Eastern and Southern Africa (RANESA) funded by Sweden. The workshop brought together 32 participants from Statistical Offices, Environment Ministries and Academia from 12 developing countries in Eastern and Southern Africa. This workshop provided the participants with hands-on training in the technical aspects of actually constructing natural resources accounts. The methodology presented was based on the Operational Manual and on the System of integrated Environmental and Economic Accounting, SEEA-2000, which is currently being revised by the London Group. The combination of methodological sessions followed by case studies and hands-on training sessions was very well received by the participants.

The First Preparatory Session on the World Summit on Sustainable Development (the tenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development) (New York, 30 April-2 May 2001). The meeting discussed the preparatory activities for the World Summit at the different levels and by major groups, the process for the agenda and main themes for the Summit, modalities for future preparatory meetings and the rules of procedure for the Summit. The meeting reached an agreement on the organizational aspects related to the Summit, while agreement on the key themes for further implementation of the Agenda will be addressed in the forthcoming Preparatory meetings. With regards to statistics, the latter will relate to actions in Chapters 8 and 40 of Agenda 21.

The World Summit will take place in Johannesburg, South Africa, 2-11 September 2002. The second and third preparatory meeting will be held in late January 2002 and in late March in New York. The fourth is scheduled for Bali, Indonesia in May 2002. Regional preparatory meetings will be held during 2001.

Consultations with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat (Georgetown, Guyana, 30 April-4 May 2001).
Meetings were held on the implementation of the remaining activities of the UNSD/CARICOM Project "Strengthening Capacity in the Compilation of Statistics and Indicators for Conference Follow-up in the CARICOM Region", including the preparation of the regional publication on environment statistics, and subject to the availability of human and financial resources, the provision of technical assistance to Member States.

Extended London Group Meeting (Voorburg, the Netherlands, 7-11 May 2001). The meeting discussed the draft of the Handbook System of integrated Environmental and Economic Accounting (SEEA-2000) which is currently being revised in cooperation with the London Group on Natural Resources Accounting. The final draft is expected to be handed over to UNSD and the other publishing agencies by the editor of the London Group, reviewed by the Friends of the Chair established by the Statistical Commission, submitted for approval to the Statistical Commission in 2002 and jointly published by United Nations, World Bank, OECD and Eurostat. Representatives from statistical offices of 11 European countries, Australia and Canada, eight developing countries from all regions, seven international organizations and invited experts from academia and NGOs attended the meeting.

Meeting of the Expert Group on International Economic and Social Classifications (New York, 18-20 June 2001). A UNSD staff member made a presentation on the Classification of Environmental Protection Activities (CEPA) at the meeting. The Expert Group reviewed the proposed CEPA and accepted it as a member of the Family of International Economic and Social Classifications with Eurostat being the custodian of the classification. The Expert Group recommends that the United Nations Statistical Commission approve the CEPA as an international standard to be included in the revised Integrated Environmental and Economic Accounting (SEEA-2000).

Workshop on Water Satellite Accounts (Luxembourg, 14-15 June 2001). A staff member attended the workshop organized by Eurostat and presented the section on water accounts in the SEEA-2000 to which UNSD contributed substantially as part of the revision of the SEEA. Countries presented their experience in the compilation of selected tables of the European water accounts framework. The meeting concluded that there is a need for the preparation of a handbook on water accounts and it was suggested that the handbook be prepared jointly by UNSD and Eurostat. Visit of Mr. Rolf Willmann (FAO) and Mr. Gerry Gravel (Statistics Canada) to UNSD (23-27 July 2001). Mr. Rolf Willmann, Senior Fishery Planning Officer, Fishery (FAO) and Mr. Gerry Gravel, Chief Valuation Section, Environment Accounts Division visited UNSD to discuss the draft handbook on integrated environmental and economic accounting for fisheries. The handbook is expected to be published by the United Nations, FAO and UNU in early 2002. Messrs. Willmann and Gravel gave a seminar on " Green Accounting and Sustainability Indicators for Fisheries and Development of Fisheries Accounts in Canada".


ACC Sub-committee Meeting on Statistical Activities (Vienna, 18-20 September 2001). The meeting will discuss Development Indicators, including environmental indicators.

UNECE/Eurostat Work Session on Methodological Issues on Environment Statistics (Ottawa, Canada, 1-4 October 2001). The meeting will focus on the issues related to sustainable development indicators, eco-efficiency indicators as well as indicators on water and waste management and environment and health.

UNSD Expert Group Meeting on the Development Indicators (New York, 15-19 October 2001). The meeting will discuss about the technical evaluation of indicators, the limited list of conference indicators and the proposal for a mechanism of statistical review of the future indicators.

Note of the Editor

Our Newsletter usually carries a "Point of View" column, Envstats would like to provide a forum for discussion about hot and/or controversial issues in environment statistics. We invite you to air your individual thoughts and ideas on this page. Your comments on the role of environment statistics and that of the UNSD is also solicited and appreciated. Please send them to the address below.

envstats is produced by the Environment Statistics Section of the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD). The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations. Comments and contributions for inclusion in future issues should be sent to Kathleen Suite, envstats, DC2 - 1405,
2 United Nations Plaza, New York, New York 10017.
Tel: (1-212) 963 4847. Fax: (1-212) 963 0623.
E-mail: envstats@un.org.

We have recently moved into our new office space. Our phone numbers and fax remains the same. However our new room numbers are:

Eszter Horvath DC2-1418
Maila Puolamaa DC2-1414
Alessandra Alfieri DC2-1406
Ilaria DiMatteo DC2-1404
Reena Shah DC2-1412
Tanja Srebotnjak DC2-1410
Kathleen Suite DC2-1405


United Nations Statistics Division - Environment Statistics, envstats - issue7