Climate change continues to grow as the leading long-term threat to the future of Pacific states like Samoa – but environmental facts and figures remain a low priority for most statistics bureaus.



 “Climate change, oceans and environmental issues pose some of the most pressing problems in the Pacific,” reads a briefing paper for a regional statistics seminar held here last week.

“Policy makers need comprehensive and accurate statistical information on the environment and the way it interacts with social and economic elements of development. This has created a demand for more systematic produc t ion of env i ronmental indicators.

“Yet,” states the report, “environment statistics often are not included in the regular work programme of national statistical offices.”

The report was released ahead of the meeting aimed at SNAs, Systems of National Accounts, first laid down in 2008.

The meeting had a strong environmental focus.

“Linking environmental and socio-economic data is essential for policymakers,” reads the report.

“As the head of national statistical systems, national statistical offices should work with partners to ensure that environmental data collection results in integrated information system on the environment and its links to the economy and human activity which is high-quality and policy relevant.”

However it is not clear how much high level recognition there is for greater linkages between statistics, policy and environmental concerns like climate change.

A meeting starting today in Barbados is aimed at leading up to the 2014 Small Island Developing States to be held here in Samoa next year.

“All three regions will gather in Bridgetown, Barbados, 26-28 August for the inter-regional preparatory meeting,” reads a release from the United Nations dated 21st August.

“There they will present their regional outcomes, debate, and agree on the SIDS positions and priorities to bring to the global process leading up to the Samoa conference.”

Linking statistics and the environment would see a move towards what some call “fact-based policy” where outcomes are decided on evidence rather than politics.

An outcome document from the July meeting of Pacific SIDS saw “Climate change and ocean related issues figure prominently in the Pacific outcome document. “

But the briefing paper for last week’s statistics meeting notes that “Mainstreaming the measurement of natural capital as part of the regular data collection programs of national statistical offices would improve the ability of policy makers to make balanced policy choices for sustainable development.”

A theme proposed by Pacific delegates to the 2014 meeting is “the sustainable development of SIDS through genuine and durable partnerships.”

Use of the word “genuine” may suggest a move towards ideas such as fact-based policy, with Pacific nations long calling for greater recognition of the reality that climate change threatens their future existence as nation states.

Meant ime, the move to integrate environmental facts and figures into national accounts gathered speed last year with adoption of SEEA, the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting.

“SEEA is a multi-purpose information system which uses the accounting structure of the System of National Accounts to integrate environmental information,” reads last week’s briefing paper.

This follows an agreement in 2010 under ESCAP, the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, “to provide an agreed basic range of population, economic, social and environmental statistics”, by 2020.

An outcome document from last week’s SNA seminar was not available by press time.