The Political Economy of Greening the National Income Accounts

Wagner, Gernot

While the United Nations and many other countries are actively exploring green accounting, official efforts in the United States have come to a virtual halt. In 1994, Congress commissioned a high-level study reviewing the Bureau of Economic Analysis's (BEA) work on its Integrated System of Environmental and Economic Accounts (ISEEA), but since its publication in 1999 has ignored the results and continued to bar BEA from its efforts. The debate surrounding green accounting in the U.S. should be freed from the partisan struggle in Washington and moved in the hands of the scientific community. Green accounting efforts should seriously focus on including ecological services as well as mere resource depreciation, but in line with the recommendations of Nordhaus and Kokkelenberg (1999), the existing national income and product accounts framework should be used as a point of departure, and the creation of official accounts should employ an incremental approach, giving first priority to areas where the necessary research is available.


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International and Public Affairs
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February 3, 2012