From Statistics to Policy

15-12-2016 | Publication

The World Bank WAVES programme supports several countries with the development of natural capital accounts (NCA). NCA links natural capital to the countries’ system of national accounts. At the request of the WAVES programme, PBL has evaluated how this type of information supports Dutch policy-making processes. Three recommendations are made.

In the Netherlands, NCA (in the form of environmental and nature statistics and environmental accounts) has been developed over the past 40 years. The experiences obtained with collecting, publishing and interpreting statistical environmental information can be of use for countries who are just starting to compile natural capital accounts. The main question is how statistical information can support policy-making. Policymakers and other users of statistical information often need processed information, rather than basic figures. Context, interpretation and explanation are important before statistics can be used in the various stages of the policy-making cycle. In the Netherlands, assessment institutes (PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis) usually provide this type of interpretation, but this is also done by other research institutes, such as the Energy research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN) and increasingly by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) itself.


  1. Organise collaborations between statistical institutes and users of statistics, to ensure that data choices match policy needs. Other organisations, supported by the statistical institutes, may also be asked to provide or collect relevant data.
  2. To ensure that environmental statistics and accounts match policy needs, data need to be interpreted. This would require other competences and expertise than those needed for producing statistics, such as knowledge of policy evaluation, models and policy instruments. This task could be taken on by one or more institutes.
  3. Various channels could be used to improve the link between statistics and policy. This increases the scope of application of environmental statistics and accounts. The Netherlands, for example, also has the Environmental Data Compendium, as well as a number of statutory environmental reports and assessments, in addition to the Statline website from Statistics Netherlands.