At the request of the United Nations Statistical Commission (UNSC) and its Working Group on International Programmes and Coordination, the United Nations Statistical Division (UNSD) embarked on the collection of environmental data from national statistical offices in 1999. The data collection was repeated in 2001, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2013, 2016 and 2018. A full analysis of the results of the 2001 data collection efforts for a set of environmental variables is given in a Report of the Secretary-General on Environment Statistics (E/CN.3/2003/19) to the 34th session of the UNSC which was held in 2003 in New York. The UNSC supported and approved the programme for data collection outlined in the report.
The data collection was joined by the United Nations Environment Programme in 2004 and has been established on a biennial basis as part of UNSD's regular data collection programme. The Questionnaire is sent to the national statistical offices as well as to the ministries/agencies responsible for environmental matters.
In the 1999, 2001 and 2004 data collection rounds, UNSD obtained data on air, land, waste and water, but in harmonizing with other international data collections, as of 2006, the UNSD has collected data solely on waste and water. This arrangement has allowed UNSD to focus its limited resources on relevant specific themes and to avoid duplication on selected tables. A Background Document to the Report of the Secretary-General on Environment Statistics (E/CN.3/2020/33) for the 51st session of the UNSC (New York, 3-6 March 2020) provides a more detailed summary of the progress in the collection of environment statistics carried out by the UNSD in the context of increasing demand for environment statistics needed for the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) indicators.
The data received from countries feed into the UNSD's evolving environment statistics database. UNSD environmental indicators derived from these data are available online.