Material Flows Around the Globe: Developing Multi-Regional Physical Supply and Use Accounts for the Analysis of Global Material and Energy Flows

  • Project no.151805
  • Duration 03/2019 - 02/2022

Today, there are a number of statistical approaches and analytical tools to estimate the global material and energy flows induced by production and consumption activities in an economy. These include, among others, material flow accounting (MFA) and physical energy flow accounting (PEFA). Currently, they are, among others, core modules of the "System of Environmental and Economic Accounting" (SEEA), which was developed by the United Nations specifically for this purpose.

Currently, the analysis of raw materials and energy used economically along international supply chains is mainly based on monetary data referring to flows of goods and services within the economy. This applies in particular to methods based on environmentally extended multiregional input-output analysis (EE-MRIOA). Nevertheless, in some cases the use of the monetary structure of production and consumption does not allow for an accurate estimation of some of the global physical flows induced by final use in a country. The aspects that play an important role in this respect are among others:

  • the small monetary value of some physical flows of great importance to the economy,
  • the existence of different prices for different customers, and
  • the high volatility of market prices of certain raw materials, etc.

To counter such analytical bias aspects, several MFA and EE-MRIOA studies propose to perform detailed physical flow calculations so that multi-regional physical input-output tables can be constructed. For this purpose, the Vienna University of Economics and Business and the Wuppertal Institute are building a database as part of the MF-GLOBE project. The researchers are primarily creating physical supply and use tables for energy of several countries for the years 1995 to 2015, as far as the available data allow.

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