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Environmental indicators

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Environmental indicators

The Commission has compiled a list of environmental indicators with a view to selecting seven key indicators to be inserted in the structural indicators to assess implementation of the strategy to make the European Union the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustained economic growth.


Report from the Commission to the Council of 20 September 2002, Analysis of the "open list" of environment-related headline indicators [COM(2002) 524 final - Not published in the Official Journal].


The EU strategy for sustainable development was adopted at the Gothenburg European Council in June 2001, adding an environmental dimension to the Lisbon process on employment, economic reform and social cohesion. The Commission was given the task of evaluating the progress made in implementing this strategy in its annual Spring report, on the basis of "structural" indicators. The Council, not satisfied with the environmental indicators chosen, drew up an open list of indicators. This report is an analysis of the feasibility and availability of data for the proposed indicators. It constitutes a basis for choosing seven environmental indicators for eventual inclusion in the 2003 Spring report.

The indicators in the report are divided into four groups:

  • those which are feasible in 2002 as the data required are available and reliable;
  • those which are feasible only in part in 2002 as the data, although available, are incomplete or not sufficiently up to date;
  • those unlikely to be feasible in the near future because, although the data are identifiable, the available sources are inadequate or the data are not always produced on an annual basis;
  • those for which the available data are not sufficiently clear and for which methodological or other development work will be required.

For each of the indicators in the first three groups, the report includes a description, the data available, the method of calculation and proposals for improvements.

Indicators which are feasible in 2002 (1st group):

  • total greenhouse gas emissions, emissions per capita, by sector and by unit of GDP;
  • energy consumption by mode of transport;
  • urban population exposure to air pollution (ozone and particulate matter);
  • emissions of air pollutants (ozone precursors, particulate matter and SO2);
  • sustainability of fishing for selected species (proposed alternative: fish stocks in European marine waters);
  • area under organic farming.

Indicators feasible in 2002, but incomplete (2nd group):

  • transport intensity against GDP;
  • modal split of transport (dependence of goods transport on road transport and of passenger transport on the car);
  • municipal waste collected, landfilled and incinerated;
  • recycling rate of selected materials (paper, cardboard and glass);
  • nitrate and phosphate concentrations in rivers;
  • protected areas for biodiversity;
  • nitrogen balance (the balance between nitrogen added to the soil and nitrogen removed from the soil in crops or through livestock grazing).

Indicators unlikely to be feasible in the near future (3rd group):

  • investment in transport infrastructure by mode (passengers and freight);
  • recycling rate of selected materials;
  • hazardous waste generated;
  • discharge of pollutants (nutrients, organics, chemicals) into water;
  • quality of drinking water;
  • water use by economic sector;
  • natural resource productivity;
  • pesticide use:
  • evolution of land use (evolution of built-up areas).

Indicators for which the available data are not sufficiently clear and for which methodological or other development work will be required (4th group):

  • exposure of the population to high levels of transport noise;
  • average journey length and time per person, by mode and purpose;
  • internalisation of the external costs in the transport sector;
  • exposure to and consumption of toxic chemicals;
  • waste prevention;
  • valorisation rate of selected materials;
  • intensity of primary material use;
  • biodiversity index;
  • contaminated and eroded soils;
  • other potential indicators in the field of public health.

The report concludes by stating that a detailed work programme for the production of the indicators will be developed in the next stage. Priority will be given to the production of indicators feasible in 2002 and those feasible in 2002 but incomplete.


Communication from the Commission of 15 September 2006, entitled "Development of agri-environmental indicators for monitoring the integration of environmental concerns into the common agricultural policy" [COM(2006) 508 final - Not published in the Official Journal]. Environmental indicators are an essential tool to providing information on the state of the rural environment, on the changing impact of agriculture on the environment, the effects of agriculture and environment policies on farm management and as a contribution to agriculture and environment policy decision making.

The IRENA operation launched in 2002 paved the way for significant progress on building the indicators, in particular on the type of indicators and compiling and identifying sources of data. On this basis, the Commission plans to focus work on the following points:

  • rationalising all indicators and boosting their policy relevance (retaining only 28 indicators);
  • consolidating all indicators, extending their coverage to the new Member States and rectifying any shortcomings: strengthening legislation on the collection of agricultural data, refining surveys, using the Farm Accountancy Data Network (FADN), improving modelling frameworks and researching methods to collect better data;
  • setting up a permanent and stable arrangement to facilitate the long-term success of the indicator system.

Communication from the Commission of 20 March 2001 on the statistical information needed for indicators to monitor the integration of environmental concerns into the Common Agricultural Policy [COM(2001) 144 - Not published in the Official Journal]. In this communication, the Commission defines the data required to build 35 key agri-environmental indicators and the measures planned to provide such data.

Communication from the Commission of 26 January 2000 on indicators integrating environmental concerns into the common agricultural policy [COM(2000) 20 final - Not published in the Official Journal]. In this communication, the Commission sets out the framework for establishing indicators to monitor the efficiency of the strategy of integrating environmental concerns into the European Union's agricultural and rural policies.

Last updated: 09.10.2006