Exhibit 3—A framework for performance indicators—text version

Managing Sustainable Development

Managing Sustainable Development—A Discussion Paper by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development

Exhibit 3—A framework for performance indicators

This flow chart shows a description of each type of indicator followed by an arrow leading to the next type. The last category, response indicators, is linked by arrows to all of the other categories, indicating that the cycle can start again from any point.

  1. Driving force indicators, such as the number of cars per capita, describe underlying factors that create environmental pressures or impacts, or influence the state of environmental variables such as soil, air, and water quality and biodiversity.
  2. Pressure indicators, such as tons of effluent, waste or air emissions, or noise levels, describe variables that directly affect the state of the environment or may cause negative impacts.
  3. State indicators are the final indicators of the effectiveness of policy and program responses. These indicators reveal the current condition of the environment and reflect the effects of the pressures. Some examples include: the concentration of pollutants in the air, water, or soil; noise levels near main roads or airports; and the global mean temperature. Since ecosystems can sometimes be slow to respond to changes in pressure, state indicators are not always useful for assessing the validity of management responses in the short term. For example, the effectiveness of measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions will take decades to assess, since fluctuations in the greenhouse effect occur over many years and are influenced by global factors not attributable to the action of any one country.
  4. Impact indicators such as pollution-induced asthma, health problems, or mortality describe the ultimate effects of changes of state. As is the case with state indicators, changes in impact indicators cannot be easily attributed to policy or program responses since they are influenced by multiple variables. For example, pollution could be one of many factors that influence certain diseases, and it could be difficult to distinguish between the short-term effects of a global economic recession and government programs on carbon dioxide emissions.
  5. Response indicators demonstrate the efforts of politicians and decision makers to reduce or eliminate driving forces, pressures, and impacts. Some examples of response to pressure include changes in the percentage of lead in gasoline, cars with catalytic converters, hybrid vehicles, and automotive research and development investment in light-weight or zero emission vehicles.