Indicators and Targets

The development and incorporation of quantitative indicators can help to minimize the discrepancies between the intended outcomes set forth in national strategies and what is or can be realized in practice. Statistics and indicators make it easier to identify and assess trade-offs among the economic, environmental, and social dimensions of sustainable development. Indicators can be used to track progress along sustainable paths and define performance targets. They also contribute to policy transparency and accountability in sustainable development strategies.

Most OECD countries have developed a set of indicators as part of their national strategies. These indicators vary widely across countries and are generally organized according to specific themes and sub-themes. Some strategies specify relatively few, mostly environmental, indicators. Others adopt large indicator systems. The New Zealand Program of Action is based on 40 indicators that provide insight on the themes of population changes, environmental and ecosystem resilience, economic growth and innovation, skills and knowledge, living standards and health, consumption and resource use, and social cohesion. Switzerland monitors sustainable development according to the MONET indicator system, which includes 115 indicators for 26 themes, allowing it to track the current situation and trends as well as the country's position relative to other countries [48].

A few countries are refining their structural approaches and choice of indicators as they revise their national strategies. In Norway, a special commission proposed a new indicator set to monitor the Norwegian Action Plan for Sustainable Development, National Agenda 21. This includes 16 indicators that identify and assess the welfare effects of the various components of national wealth: financial capital, real capital, human capital, natural capital and environmental capital. Finland developed its first set of indicators in 2000 and revised and broadened them in 2004 to include 68 indicators in eight categories and three sustainable development dimensions.

Some countries regularly track their progress on the basis of sustainability indicators, and a few have established quantified time-bound targets. For example, the German strategy uses indicators in fiscal, economic, education, research, housing, special planning, crime prevention, energy, and environmental areas as targets. The U.K.'s new strategy, Securing the Future, contains 68 indicators, 20 of which are linked to specific quantifiable goals. Progress on indicators is reported annually, and a "traffic light" approach is used to show areas of improvement and deterioration [47].

However, the most comprehensive and overall Good Practices of Indicators and Targets are found in Austria, Czech Republic, and Ireland. The Austrian Strategy for Sustainable Development specifies 52 indicators in four action fields—Austria's quality of life, Austria as a dynamic business location, Austria as a living space, and Austria's global responsibility—and includes 20 key objectives with quantified time-bound goals. The Czech Republic strategy outlines two sets of indicators, each organized according to six categories: economic, environmental, social, research and development and education, European and international context, and good governance. One set (116 indicators) is used to monitor progress on specific elements, while the other set (24 indicators) is used in communications with policy makers and the public. In Ireland, the government's work program to develop indicators of sustainable development to implement the Strategy for Ireland includes the formulation of green national accounts and satellite accounting approaches to supplement economic accounts.

Negotiating Essentials

Negotiating Essentials

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