EU environmental pressure indicators launched

Eurostat proposes 60 key indicators after consultation with 2,300 experts from all EU countries

The development of a single measure of economic pressure on the environment took a step forward yesterday with publication by the EU statistical office Eurostat of a first set of figures showing trends in levels of key pollution and resource-use indicators. The 60 indicators provide a "snapshot" view of progress towards lowering pressures and are intended eventually to be incorporated into a single "index" value which can be compared with more traditional measures such as GDP.

The set of indicators is one of several being produced according to the "DPSIR" methodology, which distinguishes between environmental driving forces, pressures, states, impacts and responses (ENDS Daily 16 September 1997). At EU level, the European Environment Agency is responsible for reporting on the last three aspects and has recently produced its first three-yearly report on EU environmental quality and trends (ENDS Daily 24 June).

Eurostat's report, in contrast, looks in greater detail at the pressures which cause environmental problems. The document lists the ten environmental themes set out in the EU's fifth environmental action programme launched in 1993 and lists the six most important indicators for each in decreasing order of importance, along with trends over time.

Emissions of nitrogen oxides are singled out as the most important indicator of air pollution, having fallen only by 4% since 1980. Consumption of agricultural pesticides is the most important indicator in the "dispersion of toxics" category, followed by emissions of dioxins, which the indicators show have fallen by 50% since 1985.

The report's publication is part of a process launched by the European Commission in 1994, which also includes the elaboration of "satellite accounts" recording environmental pressures by economic sector under traditional accounting categories (ENDS Daily 11 May). Eurostat's 60 indicators will eventually be aggregated into ten indices, with the ultimate goal of producing a single "environmental pressure index". However, the report's authors acknowledge that full achievement of this aim remains a "dream" for the time being.

Report author Jochen Jesinghaus told ENDS Daily today that Eurostat had not attempted to interpret the indicators as they were intended to serve as a neutral source of information for all sides in the policy debate. Each was chosen after consultation with 230 scientists and environmentalists, with little involvement from governments - a "unique" feature according to the authors.

The 60 indicators are grouped according to environmental impact category, but will soon be organised by economic sector to enable tracking of the environmental integration process currently being developed by EU governments (ENDS Daily 26 May). This step was announced by acting EU environment commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard last year (ENDS Daily 5 November 1998).

Follow Up:
Eurostat, tel: +352 4301 33 444. References: "Towards Environmental Pressure Indicators for the EU".

Please sign in to access this article. To subscribe, view our subscription options, or take out a free trial.

Please enter your details

Forgotten password?

Having trouble signing in?

Contact Customer Support at
or call 020 8267 8120

Not a subscriber?

Take a free trial now to discover the critical insights and updates our coverage offers subscribers.