Defra's streamlined SDIs show slow progress

9th August 2013


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  • Ecosystems



Progress against national sustainable development indicators is slow, reveals the environment department

Although the UK has cut greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions and improved the sustainability of water abstraction since 1990, there has been no change in the amount of natural resources the country is consuming and a number of native species, such as farmland and woodland birds, continue to decline, confirms Defra.

The environment department has published its first report on progress against a new set of 35 sustainable development indicators (SDIs) covering the economy, the environment and society.

The new SDIs were agreed earlier this year to replace the previous set of 68 indicators and align the figures more closely with the government’s new wellbeing measures.

In its report, Defra reveals that, since 1990, there has been an improvement in only four of the 12 headline SDIs for environmental sustainability.

According to analysis by the department, GHG emissions associated with consumption have increased over the long-term at the same time as the UK’s overall carbon footprint has been cut.

Meanwhile, populations of the UK’s wild birds have continued to decline or shown no improvements, and the amount of raw materials being used in the country has not changed.

Of the 18 secondary measures to assess the state of the environment, there is insufficient long-term data in more than half to monitor progress effectively, including SDIs on river water quality and land use.

There are also no long-term figures for the number of priority species or habitats that are stable, although more recent data indicate that both have seen improvements in the past five years.

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