UK sustainable development progress reviewed

First annual report measures quality of life against 15 indicators; environment trends worst

The UK government took its sustainable development strategy a step forward today with publication of a first annual report measuring citizens' quality of life against 15 economic, social and environmental indicators (ENDS Daily 17 May 1999). While all economic indicators and most social indicators improved in 1999, environmental indicators fared less well.

Of the seven environmental indicators, only river water quality showed both an annual improvement and a positive trend since 1990. The wildlife indicator, which is based on wild bird populations, improved in 1999, but kept its overall negative trend. Air quality deteriorated in 1999, but remained better than in 1990.

Meanwhile, road traffic levels (the chosen indicator for transport), increased by 1.7% in 1999, though the government stresses that there was no increase in the pace of growth. Available data on the percentage of new homes built on previously developed land and trends in waste generation are both insufficient to show recent trends.

Environmental group Friends of the Earth (FoE) UK congratulated the government on the report, but said that "one fact leaps off the pages. While the economy has made progress under this government...too many environmental indicators have actually got worse. Once again, we see that an obsession with growth in GDP is not enough to deliver real improvements in quality of life for most ordinary people."

Follow Up:
UK environment ministry, tel: +44 20 79 44 30 00, sustainable development annual report, and regional breakdown of "headline" indicators.

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