The number of environmental audits is increasing globally. Adaptation to climate change has quickly become a key audit topic. Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) use the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) both as audit topics and as audit criteria.
The INTOSAI WGEA, a global Working Group on Environmental Auditing chaired by the National Audit Office of Finland, has published a report on a survey conducted every three years for SAIs around the world. According to the results, the number of environmental audits and auditors conducting them is increasing on average.
According to the 71 countries that responded to the survey, the topic to which SAIs will pay most attention during the next few years is climate change adaptation. The growing importance of this topic is illustrated by the fact that three years earlier, climate change adaptation did not make it into the top ten audit topics. Other popular topics include protected areas, forestry, and drinking water. Regionally, water issues are more important in Africa and the Arabic-speaking world than in other regions.
The most important global agreements that the SAIs use as benchmarks are the Paris Agreement and the UN Agenda 2030 with its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs have an important role especially in the global south. SAIs typically use SDGs not only as audit topics but also as audit criteria. Only six per cent of the world’s SAIs consider that the SDGs have had no impact on their work at all. SDG 13 on climate action is becoming the most important environmental goal, which will receive attention in all regions.
One interesting finding from the survey is that environmental auditors consider problems related to the quality and availability of data to be the biggest obstacles in their work. On average, these problems were found to be greater than the lack of environmental expertise, for example.
More than two thirds of the SAIs cooperate with the SAIs of other countries. The SAIs expect the WGEA to provide guidance materials, training, and networking. The results of the survey will help the Secretariat to prepare the WGEA work programme for the years 2023–2025.