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Carl Obst

Carl Obst is a Director of the Institute for the Development of Environmental-Economic Accounting (IDEEA), a small consulting firm working with governments, international organisations and companies to develop and implement natural capital accounting.

Main projects include: lead author for FAO/UN System of Environmental-Economic Accounting for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; technical adviser for UN World Tourism Organization Measuring Sustainable Tourism project; research on the valuation of ecosystem services for the World Bank and technical adviser for joint UNEP/UN Statistics Division/CBD project Advancing Natural Capital Accounting.

Summary of current activities: From 2010 to 2013 Carl was the lead author and editor on a United Nations project that established international statistical standards in the area of natural capital accounting. The project – referred to as the SEEA (System of Environmental-Economic Accounting) - encompassed measurement concepts and boundaries in a wide range of themes including natural resource accounting, land accounting, accounting for physical flows of water, energy, materials, emissions and waste, environmental protection expenditure, environmental taxes and subsidies, depletion adjusted measures of national income and accounting for ecosystem services, ecosystem condition and biodiversity. Carl brought to that work 20 years of experience in accounting for the national economy (including measures such as GDP, household saving, productivity and national balance sheets). Ultimately the SEEA is aimed at integrating environmental data within standard approaches used for measuring the economy such that there can be a mainstreaming of environmental data into decision making processes.

Building on the SEEA work, which was completed in mid 2013, Carl commenced work as a consultant on various projects in natural capital accounting. These have involved the development of relevant implementation guides and training materials for the SEEA, assessments of countries’ capacity to commence natural capital accounting, work with private sector initiatives on natural capital accounting, and work with government departments on integrating environmental data. Major projects over the past 18 months have been work with FAO on the development of a SEEA for the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sector with a focus on organising information in relation to sustainable production; research on valuation methods for ecosystem services in an accounting context with the World Bank WAVES project; work on developing a measurement framework for sustainable tourism with the UN World Tourism Organization and work with UNEP, the UN Statistics Division and the CBD on preparing technical guidance on ecosystem accounting. Ecosystem accounting is an emerging field in which measures of ecosystem services and measures of ecosystem condition are integrated with standard economic accounts.

In 2015, Carl established IDEEA with colleague Mark Eigenraam. IDEEA ( is committed to building the capacity of governments, businesses and the community in environmental-economic accounting. Our aim is to improve the understanding of how people and society connect to the environment by integrating information about ecosystems and natural capital into their choices and decision making.

Recent publications and papers

Obst and Ivanov (2016) Advancing the statistical co-ordination of land data, Paper prepared for discussion at the meeting of the OECD Committee on Statistics and Statistical Policy, April 2016.

SEEA Experimental Ecosystem Accounting Technical Recommendations, Draft for expert consultation, Dec 2015.

Obst (2015) How the SEEA Experimental Ecosystem Accounting framework can be used for growth accounting and productivity analysis, Paper prepared for OECD Expert Workshop: Measuring Environmentally Adjusted Total Factor Productivity for Agriculture, Dec 2015.

Obst (2015) "Reflections on natural capital accounting at the national level", Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Vol 6, No 3.

Obst, Hein, Edens (2015). "National accounting and the valuation of ecosystem assets and their services". Environmental and Resource Economics, DOI 10. 1007/s10640-015-9921-1

Obst (2015) "Australia is among the most livable countries, but it lags other countries on sustainability", The Conversation, 17 September, 2015

System of Environmental-Economic Accounting for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Draft released by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, September 2015. 

Obst (2015) "Account for soil as natural capital", Correspondence, Nature, 527: 165

Hein, obst, Edens, Remme (2015) "Progress and challenges in the development of ecosystem accounting as a tool to analyse ecosystem capital", Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 14: 86-92

Schreyer and Obst (2015) "Towards complete balance sheets in the national accounts:The case of mineral and energy resources", OECD Green Growth Papers 2015/02, DOI 10.1787/5js319256pvf-en

System of Environmental - Economic Accounting 2012 – Experimental Ecosystem Accounting. Published by United Nations, European Union, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and The World Bank (2015), United Nations, New York.

System of Environmental-Economic Accounting 2012 – Central Framework. Published by United Nations, European Union, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and The World Bank (2014), United Nations, New York.

Obst and Vardon, “Recording environmental assets in the national accounts”, Oxford Review of Economic Policy, 30(1), 126-144

Obst, Hein &Edens, “Ecosystem services: Accounting Standards” Letters, Science, October 25, 2013.