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Are we on the right path? Measuring progress towards environmental sustainability in European countries

Usubiaga-Liaño, Arkaitz; Ekins, Paul; (2023) Are we on the right path? Measuring progress towards environmental sustainability in European countries. Sustainability Science , 18 pp. 755-770. 10.1007/s11625-022-01167-2. Green open access

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Abstract

Current environmental and sustainable development metrics fail to capture environmental sustainability from a strong sustainability perspective, which can lead to misleading messages around the urgency to reduce environmental degradation. The Environmental Sustainability Gap (ESGAP) framework addresses this measurement gap with metrics that reflect whether the functions of natural capital can be sustained in the long term. To date, the framework has been implemented through the Strong Environmental Sustainability Index (SESI), which provides a ‘snapshot’ perspective on whether countries meet science-based environmental standards for a wide range of environmental and resource topics at a given point in time. However, SESI does not show whether countries are moving towards or away from environmental sustainability. This is a perspective often overlooked in many environmental and sustainable development metrics. To address this research gap, this paper presents the Strong Environmental Sustainability Progress Index (SESPI). SESPI comprises 19 indicators. For each of these indicators, it measures whether under current trends, standards of environmental sustainability would be reached in 2030. The resulting information is normalised, weighted and aggregated into a single index that has been computed for 28 European countries. The results show mixed progress for Europe with notable differences between countries and indicators, but generally speaking, it can be concluded that Europe is not on a sustainable path. All in all, SESPI can answer the question of whether we are making progress towards environmental sustainability and make the main messages more digestible to decision-makers and the general public.

Type: Article
Title: Are we on the right path? Measuring progress towards environmental sustainability in European countries
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1007/s11625-022-01167-2
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-022-01167-2
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.
Keywords: ESGAP, Strong Environmental Sustainability Progress Index, Environmental sustainability, Sustainability gap, Environmental indicators
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > Bartlett School Env, Energy and Resources
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10152884
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