A series of indicators that show the balance between economic growth and environmental damage or protection have shown that some progress has been made following the Government’s attempts to make our economy more sustainable.

According to the indicators, emissions of air pollutants such as sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter (PM10) have gone down. However, they also show that more effort must be made to curb the impact of households and road transport on the environment, and aviation emissions still show no signs of decoupling from economic growth.

The quality of rivers in the UK has gone up, as has the amount of previously developed land being redeveloped and regenerated.

However, farmland bird populations still appear to be in decline (see related story), and we are still using and wasting an unsustainable amount of water.

Shown by the indicators to be the biggest concerns were high levels of waste and quickly depleting fish stocks, which will now require further monitoring, according to Defra.

“Economic growth does not need to lead to environmental damage,” Environment Minister Lord Whitty pointed out. “We can have a prosperous and competitive economy, while at the same time reducing our impacts on the environment.”

He said that new products and innovations could play a major part in making the UK more sustainable by promoting concepts such as energy efficiency and waste reduction.

“We are committed to taking action to help reduce the environmental impacts of ‘products’, and this set of indicators will help us monitor our progress against our proposals,” Lord Whitty concluded.

By Jane Kettle

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