Government launches first annual report on sustainable development and a related website

The first annual report on sustainable development, which takes account of environmental, social and economic factors, reveals that eight of the 16 headline indicators showed improvement during the last year, while a new website aims to raise awareness of sustainable development.

Achieving a Better Quality of Life, published on 25 January by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR), shows that two of the seven environmental criteria used in evaluating sustainable development improved from 1998 to 1999, four showed no change, and one deteriorated.

Air quality was the one area which deteriorated in 1999, predominantly due to increased levels of ozone from warmer weather, DETR says, although 2000 was provisionally cited as the least polluted year since records began (see related story).

River quality improved between 1998 and 1999, with 95% of UK rivers assessed as having a ‘good’ or ‘fair’ chemical quality, up 1% on the previous year (see related story). On wildlife, the situation improved because of increases in wild bird populations in 1999 owing to a mild winter. Overall, however, populations have decreased by about 5% since the mid-70’s (see alsorelated story).

The areas which showed no significant change for the better or worse were: road traffic, which increased by 1.7% between 1998 and 1999; land use, where in 1998, 57% of new housing in England was built on previously developed land, the same as in the previous three years; waste, where there was no new data; and greenhouse gas emissions, which remained roughly the same in 1999.

Free copies of Achieving a Better Quality of Life are available from DETR by telephoning 0870 1226 236.

A new government sustainable development website, launched on the same day, provides a mechanism for continuous reporting of progress towards sustainable development, a forum for debate and exchange of information, and links to many other websites relevant to sustainable development.

English regions are developing their own sustainable development frameworks, including indicators tailored to local needs, DETR said.

Environmental group Friends of the Earth (FoE) has welcomed the publication of the new report but says that environmental indicators show the worst results. “One fact leaps off the pages,” commented Executive Director Charles Secrett. “While the economy has made progress under this Government, the quality of life as measured by social indicators has not improved at anything like the same rate. And too many environmental indicators have actually got worse. The Government is also still too slow to regulate and to ready to rely on ‘voluntary’ action by business.”

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