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Measuring progress: sustainable development indicators 2010

Measuring progress: Sustainable development indicators 2010, published by Defra today, brings together an extensive range of economic, social and environmental indicators to provide a statistical overview of the country’s progress on sustainable development.

Measuring progress: Sustainable development indicators 2010

The report covers 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. It includes measures of wellbeing, how people rate their lives and how satisfied they are with aspects that may affect them.

This compendium publication draws on indicators and national statistics from across Government. Almost all have been updated since the report’s predecessor publication Sustainable development indicators in your pocket 2009.

The publication aims to make indicators easily accessible to a wide audience and to enable everyone to judge where change, for better or worse, is occurring and where the challenges are. It should be a useful reference to experts and to those less familiar with the concept of sustainable development or indicators.

Key indicators and summary results

The 68 indicators comprise 126 measures and using these it is possible to obtain 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.

Twenty key indicators – detailed in this table – are selected to provide an overview of some of the important goals for sustainable development.

The 68 indicators aim to provide an overview of progress across four themes. Summaries are provided below for the whole set of indicators and by theme:

All indicators

Fifty-seven measures show improvement since 2003 (representing over half of those for which it is possible to make an assessment), and 24 show little or no change.

Summary of all indicators

A wide range of measures show improvement include renewable electricity, emissions of air pollutants and manufacturing emissions, fossil fuels used for electricity generation, waste and land recycling, agricultural emissions and land stewardship, crime, fear of crime, mortality rates, road accidents, rough sleepers and homeless households.

Those measures showing deterioration since 2003 are specifically:

  • aviation emissions of greenhouse gases
  • shipping emissions of greenhouse gases
  • carbon dioxide emissions from road freight
  • carbon dioxide emissions from the service sector
  • energy supply (consumption exceeding UK production)
  • farmland bird populations
  • community participation
  • range of life expectancy between local authorities
  • walking and cycling
  • households living in fuel poverty

Also showing deterioration but not included in the summaries is the background measure on carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation.

Sustainable consumption and production

Indicators for sustainable consumption and production mainly cover emissions, resource use and waste.

Summary of sustainable consumption and production indicators

Twenty-three measures have shown improvement since 2003 whilst 21 measures have improved since 1990. Those showing improvement include emissions of air pollutants from the manufacturing sector, domestic material consumption, water resource use, agricultural emissions, waste and land recycling.

Measures showing deterioration since 2003 are greenhouse gases from aviation and shipping, carbon dioxide emissions from road freight and farmland bird populations.

Climate change and energy

Indicators for climate change and energy mainly cover greenhouse gas emissions, electricity generation and energy supply.

Summary of climate change and energy indicators

Eight measures show improvement since 2003 and 5 show deterioration. Since 1990, 7 measures show improvement and 6 show deterioration.

Those showing improvement since 2003 include renewable electricity, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emissions from electricity generation, fossil fuels used in electricity generation, carbon dioxide emissions from private cars, the manufacturing sector and households, and methane emissions from agriculture.

Those showing deterioration are aviation and shipping emissions of greenhouse gases, energy supply, and carbon dioxide emissions from road freight and the service sector.

Protecting natural resources and enhancing the environment

Indicators for protecting natural resources and enhancing the environment mainly cover wildlife and biodiversity, farming, land use, fish stocks, air pollution and rivers.

Summary of natural resource and environment indicators

Thirteen measures show improvement since 2003, 5 show little or no change and 1 shows deterioration.

Those showing improvement since 2003 include woodland bird populations, fish stocks, chemical river quality, farming management and emissions, land recycling, air pollution and dwelling density.

Farmland bird populations have declined since 2003, whilst seabird and wintering wetland bird populations have seen little or no change.

Creating sustainable communities and a fairer world

Indicators for Creating sustainable communities and a fairer world mainly cover poverty, health, crime, access, mobility, and local and domestic environments.

Summary of sustainable community indicators

Twenty-five measures show improvement since 2003, 18 show little or no change, and 4 show deterioration.

Those showing improvement since 2003 include crime, fear of crime, mortality rates, airborne particulate pollution, road accidents, rough sleepers and homeless households in temporary accommodation.

Those showing deterioration are fuel poverty, the difference in life expectancy between local authorities, walking and cycling, and community participation.

The publication is a Defra National Statistics compendium publication, which has drawn on indicators and other National Statistics from across Government. 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.

Note: 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.


User comments

  1. worthfitbi says:

    “It should be a useful reference to experts and to those less familiar with the concept of sustainable development or indicators.”
    Where else can I read about this?

  2. Tom Barker says:

    I notice that the measures showing deterioration are exactly those identified by academics and other commentators as not being addressed sufficiently in government policy. Also, can it be possible that Defra have taken no notice of the Jevons Paradox (rebound effect)? How can they expect to make any progress on these increasingly serious and overwhelming environmental problems while they’re using current types of strategy?

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