Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
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Sustainable development indicators in your pocket 2008
A free little book published by Defra today provides a statistical overview of the country's progress in tackling key economic, social and environmental issues, by bringing together an extensive range of indicators that can literally fit in your pocket. They cover a wide range of topics of everyday concern such as health, housing, jobs, crime, education, and our environment, all of which may affect whether we can live more sustainably in the future.
Sustainable development indicators in your pocket 2008 is a compendium publication, which has drawn on indicators and other National Statistics from across Government. Most of the indicators are based on already published statistics, and almost all have been updated since the 2007 edition.
The aim of this booklet is to make indicators easily accessible to a wide audience and to enable everyone to judge where change for the better or worse is occurring and where the challenges are. It should be a useful reference to experts but also to others less familiar with the concept of sustainable development or indicators. Around 60,000 copies of the booklet are distributed annually and they are particularly popular with schools and colleges.
This edition includes as new contextual information:
* An update to the life satisfaction wellbeing measure, showing how people rate their lives [page 118 of publication]
* An extension of the wellbeing measures to now include child wellbeing [pages 129 to 135].
* Estimates of carbon dioxide emissions associated with the UK's consumption of goods and services, whether or not the emissions occur within the UK i.e. including through the production of imported goods (often referred to as embedded emissions) [page 24 of publication]
The 68 indicators comprise 126 measures and using these it is possible to get an overview of change compared with earlier years, based on the number of measures showing improvement, little change or deterioration. However it is essential to look at the individual indicators too as this does not take account of the relative importance of particular indicators.
Compared with the position in 1999, 53 measures show improvement (representing over half of those for which it is possible to make an assessment), and 11 show a deterioration.
A wide range of measures show improvement including:
* renewable electricity
* emissions of air pollutants
* waste recycling
* agricultural emissions and land stewardship
* river water quality
* land recycling for development
* crime and fear of crime
* childhood and pensioner poverty
* death rates from circulatory disease, cancer and suicides
* people killed or seriously injured in road accidents
* housing conditions, fuel poverty and rough sleepers
* local environmental quality.
The eleven measures showing deterioration since 1999 are specifically:
* aviation emissions of greenhouse gases
* fossil fuels used for electricity generation
* nitrogen oxide emissions from electricity generation
* carbon dioxide emissions from the service sector
* energy supply (consumption exceeding UK production)
* household waste arisings
* wintering wetland bird populations
* range of life expectancy between local authorities
* walking and cycling
* ozone pollution in urban areas
* households living in temporary accommodation
UK Framework Indicators
Twenty of the 68 indicators are also 'UK Framework
indicators' covering key impacts and outcomes that reflect
the priorities shared by the UK Government and the devolved
administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
[page 16 of publication]
Greenhouse gas emissions: emissions of carbon dioxide, the main
greenhouse gas, were about 8 per cent lower than in 1990.
Emissions decreased by about 3 per cent between 2006 and 2007 as a
result of switching from coal to natural gas for electricity
[page 23 of publication]
River water quality: between 1990 and 2006 the percentage of
rivers of good biological quality in England rose from 60 to 71
per cent and in 2006, 54 per cent of rivers in Northern Ireland
and 82 per cent of rivers in Wales were of good biological
quality. In 2006, 66 per cent of English rivers were of good
chemical quality (up from 43 per cent in 1990), this figure was 74
per cent in Northern Ireland (up from 44 per cent in 1991). In all
years since 1993 over 90 per cent of rivers in Wales have been of
good chemical quality. In Scotland, the percentage of rivers of
good quality has remained stable at around 87 per cent between
2000 and 2006, based on a combined chemical, biological and
[page 59 of publication]
Bird populations: Farmland bird populations fell by 42 per cent
between 1970 and 1993, but remained fairly stable thereafter.
Woodland bird populations in 2006 were about 30 per cent lower
than the peak of the early 1970s and about 16 per cent lower than
1990. The UK's breeding seabird populations increased between
1970 and 1987 by 37 per cent but have fallen again since
[page 46 of publication]
Crime: In England and Wales, from the British Crime Survey
(BCS), vehicle thefts fell by 61 per cent and burglary fell by 47
per cent between 1991 and 2007-8. Violent crime has fallen by 30
per cent since 1999.
[page 68 of publication]
Health inequality: In 1991-3 the difference in average life
expectancy for men between local authority areas in the UK with
the highest and lowest average life expectancy was 9.7 years. This
widened to 12.6 years in 2004-6. For women the difference was 7.5
years in 1991-3 and widened to 10.2 years in 2004-6.
[page 82 of publication]
The 68 indicators can provide an overview of change for four themes as set out in the UK Government's Sustainable Development Strategy, Securing the Future (though there is some overlap in the messages where some indicators support more than one of the themes). The four themes are:
* Sustainable consumption and production
* Climate change and energy
* Natural resource protection and environmental enhancement
* Creating sustainable communities
Sustainable consumption and production
Indicators1 for sustainable consumption and production mainly cover emissions, resource use and waste.
Twenty measures (over half) show improvement compared with 1999. Those showing improvement include emissions of air pollutants, waste recycling, agricultural emissions, and land recycling.
Measures showing deterioration since 1999 are greenhouse gases from aviation, service sector carbon dioxide emissions and household waste arisings.
Climate change and energy
Indicators1 for climate change and energy mainly cover greenhouse gas emissions, electricity generation and energy supply.
Six measures show improvement since 1999 and five show deterioration.
Those showing improvement since 1999 are renewable electricity, greenhouse gas emissions from shipping, sulphur dioxide emissions from electricity generation, carbon dioxide emissions from manufacturing and the public sector, and methane emissions associated with agriculture.
Those showing deterioration are aviation emissions of greenhouse gases, energy supply, fossil fuels used in electricity generation, nitrogen oxide emissions from electricity generation and service sector carbon dioxide emissions.
Natural resource protection and enhancing the environment
Indicators1 for natural resource protection mainly cover wildlife and biodiversity, farming, land use, fish stocks, air pollution and rivers.
Sixteen measures show improvement since 1999 and one shows deterioration.
Those showing improvement since 1999 include river water quality, farming management and emissions, land recycling, air pollution, and the impact of acidification from air pollution.
Compared with 1990, wintering wetland birds show a decline. Farmland and woodland bird populations show a decline since 1990.
Creating sustainable communities and a fairer world
Indicators1 for creating sustainable communities mainly cover poverty, health, crime, access, mobility, and local and domestic environments.
Twenty-four measures show improvement since 1999, nineteen show little or no change, and four show deterioration.
Those showing improvement include poverty and housing conditions, local environment quality, crime and fear of crime, mortality rates, and road accidents.
Those showing deterioration are the difference in life expectancy between local authority areas, the number of households in temporary accommodation, walking and cycling, and ozone pollution in urban areas.
Some international data have been compiled to enable some comparisons to be made for the UK and other countries. International data are available for 32 of the 68 national indicators, consisting of 45 component measures. The indicators are presented on the UK Government sustainable development website (see notes.)
International data are presented for the UK and twelve other countries: France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Canada, Japan, Australia and the United States of America. However owing to data availability not all countries are included in every international measure. The choice of countries was partly driven by data availability but also assumptions about comparative levels of development.
It should be noted that the international data have been used as provided by the originating organisation (for example Eurostat for the European Union, the Organisation for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD), and others) and reliance has been placed upon these organisations' efforts to ensure that the data are as comparable as possible. Defra statisticians are not responsible for reliability or comparability of the international data, and the international indicators are not National Statistics.
International data are in many cases much older than data available nationally. So the position in the UK and other countries may well have changed compared with the situation presented by the international data.
International comparisons should be always treated with extreme caution as definitions and measurement methods differ between countries (despite considerable efforts by Eurostat and OECD in particular, to ensure consistency in coverage between countries).
The measures presented are the nearest available international equivalent measure to that included in the national indicators. However definitions and coverage may different from the national measure.
An attempt has been made to summarise the international data and to do so a number of criteria have been applied:
(i) Data should be available for the UK and all the 12 other selected countries.
(ii) For assessing the position for the latest year, data should be available for 2002 or later.
(iii) For assessing the recent change, data need to be available for the mid to late 1990s and for 2002 or later.
Applying these criteria, for only 20 of 45 measures for which there are international data are there data for 2002 or later for the UK and all 12 other countries.
Similarly for only 15 of the 45 measures are there sufficient data to assess progress from a year in the mid to late 1990s to 2002 or later.
Summaries are presented below based on the measures that meet the criteria. The measures that are included do cover a wide range of issues related to sustainable development, but they are inevitably extremely limited in the extent to which they present a representative summary of the UK or any other country.
UK's levels compared with 12 other countries in latest available year *
* Out of 20 measures for which data were available for all 13 compared countries and for 2002 or later, 4 measures showed the UK positioned as one of the 4 countries with the most favourable conditions. These measures were: energy consumption, water abstractions, carbon monoxide emissions and road fatalities. The UK's highest position was second, for water abstractions.
* For 6 measures the UK was positioned as one of the bottom 4 countries with the least favourable conditions. These were: renewable energy production, infant deaths per 1,000 live births, average life expectancy, deaths from cardio-vascular disease and cancer and incidences of obesity. Of these measures the UK was positioned 13th for renewable energy production and 12th for incidences of obesity.
* For the remaining 10 measures the UK was in the middle range (5th to 9th position) in relative terms. These measures were greenhouse gas emissions, carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, emissions of air pollutants from nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide and volatile organic compounds, bird species threatened, protected land, Gross Domestic Production per capita, public social expenditure and percentage of adults with tertiary (higher) level educational qualifications.
Change since mid to late 1990s for UK and 12 other countries
* For the 15 measures for which comparisons of progress can be made from the mid to late 1990s with 2003 or later, the UK showed an improvement for 11 measures (73 per cent).
* Both the United States of America and Denmark showed an improvement for 12 measures (80 per cent). Of the compared countries Canada, France, Japan and Australia had the fewest measures showing improvement with 8 (53 per cent). However these assessments of change do not take account of the different baselines for each country, only the extent to which a change has occurred relative to the individual country's status in the mid to late 1990s.
Notes to editors
1. The publication is a Defra National Statistics compendium publication, which has drawn on indicators and other National Statistics from across Government. Free copies of Sustainable development indicators in your pocket 2007 are available from Defra Publications, Admail 6000, London, SW1A 2XX (tel: 08459 556000, e-mail: email@example.com), quote product codes PB13122 (A6 size) or PB13122A (A4 size). The publication and associated data will be also presented on the sustainable development website: http://www.sustainable-development.gov.uk.
2. New figures on life satisfaction come from the Department of Health Healthy Foundations Life Stage Segmentation Research, and are based on a weighted sample of 4,480 people in England. These results were commissioned by Defra and have not been previously published.
3. Figures on child wellbeing come from the Office for Standards in Education (OfSted) "Tell Us" survey published in November 2007.
4. Figures for "embedded" carbon emissions come from new research commissioned by Defra, which was published on 2 July.
5. The indicator on crime is now fully based on results from the British Crime Survey, rather than partially on recorded crime as in previous editions.
6. For the indicator pie-chart summaries a number of indicators support more than one theme so there is some overlap in the messages the summaries convey. Indicator measures do not contribute to the summaries if (a) they are used in another indicator and are already counted within the same summary; (b) their trends are strongly influenced by or directly reflect other measures within the same summary; or (c) they are for contextual purposes. The compilation of the pie chart summaries differs slightly compared with previous years in that if an indicator has data within five years of the stated baseline then it is included in the summary. In previous editions it was data within three years.
7. The measures of wellbeing presented in the publication include:
* Selected existing sustainable development indicators
* Some related measures to support existing sustainable development indicators
* Updated survey results on life satisfaction.
* Measures of participation in sport and culture, access to green space
* A measure of positive mental wellbeing based on a Scottish health survey.
It has not been possible to update all of these measures since the last edition.
8. The international data presented are not National Statistics, but have been provided for illustrative purposes, and as an attempt to show the UK's progress in an international context. Defra statisticians are not responsible for the reliability or comparability of the international data used. The number of measures for which it was possible to make assessments for the UK and the 12 other selected countries consistently is very small compared with the number of measures in the national set of indicators. The international summaries presented are therefore very limited and should be treated with caution. They should not be regarded as representative of the UK's or any other country's progress towards sustainable development.
National Statistics publication
National Statistics are produced to high professional standards set out in the National Statistics Code of Practice. They undergo regular quality assurance reviews to ensure that they meet customer needs. They are produced free from any political interference.
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