Canadian System of Environmental-Economic Accounts - Physical Flow Accounts (PFA)

Detailed information for 2009





Record number:


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).

Data release - July 2, 2014 (first in a series of releases)


Statistics Canada's Physical Flow Accounts (PFA) record the 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 accounts 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 supply and use tables published by Statistics Canada (see "Modernization of the Input-Output tables" in the Documentation section below). As a result, the new PFA tables are not fully comparable to previously published estimates for the period 1990 to 2008.

Physical flow accounts reach their fullest elaboration in tables that record in physical units of measure both the supply and use of natural inputs, products, or residuals by industry and households. The Physical Supply and Use Tables (PSUT) mirror the structure of the supply and use tables in monetary terms that form the basis of the Input-Output Accounts, however the coverage goes beyond products to include natural inputs and residuals. According to the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA), natural inputs are defined as "all physical inputs that are moved from their location in the environment as part of economic production processes or are directly used in production;" products are defined as "goods and services (including knowledge-capturing products) that result from a process of production;" and residuals are "flows of solid, liquid and gaseous materials, and energy that are discarded, discharged or emitted by establishments and households through processes of production, consumption, or accumulation." This extended coverage gives a fuller understanding of the linkages between the environment and the economy.

The implementation of the PFA in Canada has focused on specific elements of the physical supply and use framework rather than the full elaboration of the detailed PSUT structure outlined in the SEEA. Depending on the topic, the PFA can focus on the production of statistics on either supply (e.g. in the case of CO2 emissions) or use (e.g. in the case of water and energy use) data. This is done in an effort to streamline production and maximize the usefulness of the data.

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.


  • Economic accounts
  • Environment
  • Environmental and resource accounts
  • Input-output accounts

Data sources and methodology

Target population

The Canadian economy.

Instrument design

This methodology does not apply.


This methodology does not apply.

Data sources

Data are collected from other Statistics Canada surveys and/or other sources.

The Input-Output Accounts of the Canadian System of National Accounts (CSNA) provide balanced monetary supply and use tables that are also key data sources.

This information is compiled, integrated and analyzed as part of the process of producing physical flow estimates.

Major suppliers of data within Statistics Canada are the Industry Accounts Division and the Environment, Energy and Transportation Statistics Division. Environment and Climate Change Canada and Natural Resources Canada are the main external data providers. More details on data sources are provided in the estimation section below.

Error detection

This methodology does not apply.


This methodology type does not apply to this statistical program.


In the process of preparing statistical estimates, data from various sources are confronted, analyzed by subject-matter experts, and used to compile estimates that are consistent with other estimates in the CSNA to provide a valid and coherent statistical picture of the subject matter. Consistency is a key feature of the statistics produced by the CSNA and the PFA. Data in physical units of measure are confronted with the CSNA's monetary estimates to ensure this consistency. This integration process can lead to revisions to both the physical and the monetary source data, and helps improve the quality of both the source data and the resulting accounts.

Empirical development of the PFA in Canada has focused on water use, energy use, and greenhouse gas emissions. The methods used to estimate flows of these resources, products and residuals are described separately below.

Quality evaluation

The quality of the estimates produced is ascertained using time series consistency analysis, as well as analysis of the coherence of the estimates with current economic events and with related data from other programs. Issues arising from the source data are also identified and corrected where appropriate.

Disclosure control

Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any information it collects which could identify any person, business, or organization, unless consent has been given by the respondent or as permitted by the Statistics Act. Various confidentiality rules are applied to all data that are released or published to prevent the publication or disclosure of any information deemed confidential. If necessary, data are suppressed to prevent direct or residual disclosure of identifiable data. The PFA follow the confidentiality patterns used in the Input-Output accounts and other source data for any commodities measured.

Revisions and seasonal adjustment

Energy and greenhouse gas accounts are updated annually. Water accounts are produced every two years, following the cycle of the Industrial Water Use Survey.

Preliminary estimates for energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and water use are produced for reference years that do not yet have a complete Input-Output table available for the expenditure based allocations. In all cases where a preliminary estimate is required, the most recent supply and use table is used to provide proportional allocations across industries without physical survey data. These preliminary estimates are revised upon publication of the supply and use tables for that reference year.

In addition, the greenhouse gas account is revised each time there are revisions to Environment Canada's National Inventory Report. These revisions are generally related to changes in methodology required by the UNFCCC or follow from improved methods, models, or data being used in the compilation of the NIR.

Seasonal adjustment is not necessary given that the calculations of physical flow estimates are only performed on an annual basis.

Data accuracy

No direct measures of the margin of error in the estimates can be calculated. The quality of the estimates can be inferred from analysis of revisions and from a subjective assessment of the data sources and methodology used in the preparation of the estimates. In general, the data derived from survey data and final supply and use tables are considered to be reliable. The preliminary tables are considered reliable in terms of totals and for industries and sectors that have available survey data (generally electric power, manufacturing, mining, agriculture, households, and some transportation industries). Preliminary estimates based on expenditure data from previous years should be used with caution.


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