Natural resource accounting in theory and practice: A critical assessment

In this paper an extensive review of the theoretical and applied literature on natural resource accounting (NRA) is provided. The review begins by explaining the economic theory that underpins NRA, contrasting welfare and sustainability as policy goals, and presenting various distinct conceptions of national income. The state of play regarding official revisions to the system of national accounts (SNA) with respect to natural resources and the environment is presented and controversial areas are highlighted. Finally, the economic literature on proposed revisions, and applied studies that have proceeded using these methods, is summarised and critiqued. We argue that much of the literature proceeds with weak conceptual foundations, and that typical case studies produce results that are ambiguous in interpretation. Moreover, we highlight fundamental tensions between economic theory and national accounting methodology, and conclude that one outcome of this has been the insufficient attention paid by economists to the revisions to the SNA; instead devoting time and effort to ‘freelance’ NRA case studies utilising sometimes ad hoc methods from the economic literature.

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Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, 46, 2
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 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2020-10-28

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