Introduction to Environmental Accounting

Environmental accounting is increasingly being used to support the development and analysis of government policy. This professional development short course is designed to provide mid- level government officials charged with developing, implementing or using environmental accounts with a broad understanding of the accounts.

The course has been designed to assist with the implementation of the World Bank’s Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES) as well as the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA).

No specific prior knowledge is assumed but it is expected that participants have worked professionally within or with government in disciplines related to environmental accounting, including environmental science, ecological economics, natural resource management, national accounting or statistics. Participants should have, or expect to have, some responsibilities related to the development, implementation or use of environmental accounts. The course is conducted in English with no translation and is supplemented with pre-course reading. All assessment is in English.

The course, held over five (5) days draws on expertise from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, The Australian National University and other institutions. It covers the theoretical and practical fundamentals of environmental accounting and places this into an overall public policy framework. Examples are drawn from around the world, and information resources are discussed and explored in practical workshops. Participants will have the opportunity to share experiences and are invited to use their own data for shaping into accounts.

Environmental accounting can show how different sectors of the economy affect the environment and vice versa, and point to possible public policy interventions. As the understanding of environment-economy interactions increases, the appropriate policy responses should become clearer.


The course will cover the key questions:

  • What is environmental accounting and why is it important?
  • How can environmental accounting assist decision-making?
  • Which accounts are most relevant to answer key policy questions?
  • What practical considerations need to be addressed to make environmental accounting an enduring reality in countries?

Current policies and strategies developed to address particular problems, such as green growth, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and the range of economic instruments and legal instruments that could be used in response to particular issues, will be discussed.  The relationship between emerging policy tools and the legal and administrative structures required to facilitate implementation of accounts and effective policy responses is also considered.

The course combines lecture and workshop sessions on particular aspects of the accounts with an emphasis on participant-led inquiry, integrated with hands-on practical investigation of information and data resources on different types of accounts.  Expert engagement, peer learning and networking are all emphasised.

For the theme based accounts – water, land, energy, waste, carbon, ecosystems, etc. – sessions will cover key concepts and measurement, together with data sources and methods. Practical exercises will be conducted to consolidate understanding.  

The course has two field trips: one focused on water and ecosystem accounting and the other on measuring the condition of ecosystems. Participants will need to bring field clothing, including appropriate footwear (no sandals) and hats.  Sunscreen and water will be provided.

A day-by-day outline of the course is available on the website. Selected reading material will be provided for each session. 

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the course participants will be able to:

  • explain the key features of environmental accounting
  • understand the range of information sources needed to compile accounts
  • identify issues to which environmental accounts could be applied
  • populate basic accounting tables with existing information
  • know where to find help and additional information on the concepts, data sources and methods

In addition to knowledge of the accounts and their uses, course participants will develop the skills needed to manage a team with diverse knowledge and experience that is needed to produce and use environmental accounts.


The course will be assessed.  Students will have to prepare and deliver a presentation on environmental accounting, complete field and group work, and submit a short written assignment.

All assessment is in English. Further details of assessment will be provided during the course.