Physical Flow Accounts

Physical flow accounts are one of the main elements of the United Nations System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) which was adopted as an international statistical standard in 2012. These accounts record, in physical units of measure, the supply and use of natural inputs (e.g. cubic metres of water), products (e.g. terajoules of gasoline), and residuals (e.g. kilotonnes of carbon dioxide emissions).

Statistics Canada's Physical Flow Accounts (PFA) record selected annual flows of natural resources, products and residuals between the Canadian economy and the environment. Data are presented to reflect the activities of industries, households and governments, and follow the classification system used in Statistics Canada's Input-Output Accounts (record 1401).

The PFA use the same classifications and accounting methods as the System of National Accounts (SNA) to ensure that the data can be linked with the monetary data in the national economic accounts. Classification changes and other improvements were introduced in the SNA with the implementation of the new international standards published in System of National Accounts 2008. This 2012 historical revision to the Canadian System of National Accounts has resulted in substantial impacts on the Input-Output tables published by Statistics Canada. As a result, the new PFA tables are not fully comparable to previously published estimates for the period 1990 to 2008.

To date, PFA have been developed for energy use, water use and greenhouse gas emissions. These statistics are used in economic-environmental modeling, for studies on eco-efficiency and resource and waste intensities, for environmental indicators, and for trade negotiations related to environmental impacts. Compatibility with the traditional national economic accounts greatly facilitates the integration of the environmental data into macroeconomic models and analysis.

For full details on the international standards for physical flow accounting, see Chapter III of the United Nations System of Environmental-Economic Accounting: Central Framework (SEEA-CF).

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