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Indicators for sustainable development

VIEWS: 5 PAGES: 52

									Measuring Sustainability




                 Quantifying Sustainability –
                 Science, hubris or ideology?
                 The character, role and selection of
                 sustainable development indicators


        Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, SERI Vice President, Vienna, Austria
        Professeur invite, Université de Versailles St Quentin en Yvelines, France
        Joachim.Spangenberg@seri.de, homepage: www.seri.de

Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004            Page 1
Measuring Sustainability


                         Indicators for measuring
                              sustainability
For measuring sustainability, first an
operational concept of sustainability is
needed, defining what to measure.
Then a methodology (indicators) has to be
defined standardising how to measure it, and
finally an appropriate application and
interpretation of the results.
Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004   Page 2
Measuring Sustainability



                                    Sustainability concepts
•Sustainability concepts diverge, based on the
diverging world views of their authors.
•World views influence the perception of
problems as relevant, the kind of indicators
selected or the aggregation method chosen.
•Some scholars claim that world views should not play a role,
but “objective“ facts should be the basis of problem definition.
This implicitly suggests to make their own perception of
relevance mandatory, and with it the world view of the authors.
Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004   Page 3
Measuring Sustainability




                                                I.
                                         What are (good)
                                           indicators?


Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004   Page 4
The high complexity of sustainable deve-
Measuring Sustainability

lopment processes, covering a number of
otherwise politically unlinked dimensions
and involving all sectors of society calls
for new tools that
a) provide a reliable but easily under-
standable information base,
b) help monitoring of the progress
achieved as well as
c) communication with the public at
large.
Good indicators fulfil these three tasks.
Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004   Page 5
Measuring Sustainability




Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004   Page 6
Measuring Sustainability


   For this behalf, they need to be
•derived from a sound scientific basis, which is
a challenge in particular for interdisciplinarity;
•relevant, i.e. they have to cover crucial aspects of
sustainable development;
•transparent, i.e. their selection, calculation and
meaning must be obvious even to non-experts;
•quantifiable, i.e. they should be based as far as
possible on existing data and/or on data which is
relatively easy to gather and to update.
Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004   Page 7
Measuring Sustainability


   TO GENERATE A SIMPLIFIED BUT
   RELIABLE DESCRIPTION OF REALITY,
   indicators must be
   - reproducible in order become a common
   good of the relevant scientific and political
   communities;
   - robust, i.e. immune against those small
   variations in data and methodology that do
   not indicate a changing trend, and
   - general, i.e. not specific for a single case but
   applicable in the whole territory.
Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004   Page 8
Measuring Sustainability


TO GUIDE DATA COLLECTION FOR
SENSITIVELY MONITORING THE
PROGRESS ACHIEVED,
indicators must
- react early and clearly to relevant changes in
what they are intended to monitor.
Preferably, they would measure “distance to
target” and give alarm whenever this distance
gets larger or the speed of overcoming it is
reduced.
Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004   Page 9
Measuring Sustainability


TO PASS THE MESSAGE ABOUT THE
CHALLENGES OF SUSTAINABLE
DEVELOPMENT,
indicators must
- reduce complexity in a plausible and
meaningful manner,
- be limited in number and
- easily understandable.
They should help structure the debate in a
clear and simple way that is easily digestible
by the audience, i.e. lay people, decision
makers and scholars from other disciplines.
Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004   Page 10
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                                                       Limits
Obviously, neither all of these
 recommendations can be met at all times,
 nor are they of equal importance in all
 circumstances, but in all cases good
 indicator systems should try to strike a
 balance without neglecting a specific
 element.
Prioritising certain indicator qualities will be
 much easier once the future field of appli-
 cation for the indicator is known.
Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004            Page 11
Measuring Sustainability



                                                        Best efforts don’t
                                                        help if the basic
                                                        equipment is not
                                                        adequate…




Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004   Page 12
Measuring Sustainability


                                               Quality and quantity
Indicators can only be meaningful if it is clear
which progress they are intended to measure; at
best defined by explicit and quantified targets
(performance indicators).
In many cases agreed quantitative targets are
missing, but a consensus on qualitative criteria is
possible (less illiteracy is better than more, but how
much is acceptable?), permitting to monitor
progress.

Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004            Page 13
Measuring Sustainability


                       Legitimacy and competence
For the interpretation of any indicator it must be
clear which value of the indicator is more or less
desirable than another one. This requires a grading
from good to bad results, which can take different
forms.
Target setting is a task of society and politics, not of
researchers. Science and humanities can inform
discourses, but not replace them. Competence does
not substitute for legitimacy.
Indicator development is public science.
Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004   Page 14
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                                                       Indicator scales
Nominal or binary indicators can only assume
one of two given values: a certain characteristic is
either given or not (yes/no). They are only of
limited value for the purpose of policy evaluation
and steering.
However, just for this purpose they are the easiest
to agree upon in case of politically controversial
themes. For example, whereas the effectiveness of
a national sustainability council may give reason
for disputes, its existence is easy to report.
Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004                      Page 15
• Ordinal indicators are based on qualitative
   concerns. They give information on the factor
Measuring Sustainability

   reported about locating it within a specific class of
   cases which would be considered better or worse than
   other classes, thus referring to a hierarchy of
         qualitative states.
• To apply them properly, the hierarchy (e.g. regarding
  participation: elections, right to know, right to be
  consulted, right to appeal to courts, co-decision
  procedures) must be explicit and the relative
  distances between the different classes defined
         (only equidistant scales can be aggregated in
         MCA).
• Distances are often based on value judgements (is the
  step from right to appeal to co-decision as big as the
  one from elections to right to know?).
Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004   Page 16
Measuring Sustainability


Cardinal indicators give quantitative infor-
mation. It can be absolute or relative data on
stocks or flows, or ratios of these.
However, without an explicit target the data
remain quite meaningless.
Sometimes if not targets, at least desirable
directions are implied, if it is obvious if more or
less, a growth or decline in the figure presented
would be most desirable for sustainable
development.
Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004   Page 17
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                      Indicator system structures
Different methods of structuring indicators have
been suggested and applied.
Some are only useful for the ex post
presentation of indicators derived by other
means, providing a certain level of comparability
(e.g. PSR: OECD, DSR: UNCSD until 2002,
DPSIR: EEA).
Others provide a framework which helps both to
structure the analytical work ex ante, and
education and communication.
Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004   Page 18
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The prism of
sustainability




Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004   Page 19
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                                                       The prism offers:
•Fours dimensions of sustainability, which are
permanently connected to each other;
•Interlinkages, which define the domains for
interdisciplinary work in science,
•The challenge of balancing interests in politics,
based on the importance of issues at stake, not on
the lobbying power of interest groups;
•Insights into the role of different policy fields for
sustainable development;
•An educational and communication tool.
Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004                  Page 20
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              The Prism of Sustainability…
              … illustrates the need for:
•Transdiciplinary research: no discipline alone is
competent, and there is more knowledge “out
there” than only scientific information;
•Policy integration: with limited resources,
financial and human, integration (i.e. replacing
mutual blockades of different politics by synergies)
is the precondition for effective government.
•Good governance, i.e. involving
the population at large.
Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004   Page 21
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Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004   Page 22
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                                                       A warning
Using indicators for policy planning provides new
    opportunities for transparency and efficiency, but as well
    generates new risks. Four key risks are
• the temptation to define easily achievable rather than
    adequate objectives, and to set targets according to the
    desire to be able to deliver positive reports in the short term
    rather than to report on substantial progress in the medium
    to long term;
• answer 1: A comprehensive and publicly known model
    of sustainability minimises this risk, as the lack of
    relevance of the indicators chosen is easily detectable.
    Nonetheless, institutional assets like the freedom of speech
    are essential to transform this kind of insight into a political
    force.
Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004               Page 23
Measuring Sustainability

•the risk to focus in a narrow-minded way on
progress towards the indicators defined while
neglecting other relevant trends. Some of these may
emerge as a side effect of the improvements achieved,
others might become relevant or even dominant once
the initial challenge is under control;
•answer 2: No system of indicators is set in stone or cast
in iron – indicators reflect current priorities which may
not only be different in different countries, but will also
change over time (they should: no change in priorities
would indicate in itself that no problem has been
solved). Regular revisions of indicators are necessary,
updating the system according to the emerging trends
identified by general monitoring, but not yet covered by
the system of indicators.
Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004   Page 24
Measuring Sustainability



•focusing on single issues as described by the
indicators may lead to a neglect of the interlinkages
between different dimensions of policy, with other
indicators’ trends going unnoticed. So a juxtaposition of
different sectoral politics could emerge, undermining the
effectiveness of governing and governance;
•answer 3: As long as the four dimensions of sustainable
development are considered independently of each
other, this is a serious risk. The concept of sustainable
development must avoid such systemic blindness
by integrated assessments.
Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004   Page 25
Measuring Sustainability


•the desire for positive news might lead to attempts to
“cook the books”, to generate positive reports
without a substantial base. Hierarchical administrative
systems, but also dependency on good records in the
face of external shareholders, donors of money or voters
creates situations favouring such fraud.
answer 4: Institutional innovations requested by
Agenda 21 include access to information (so far mainly
to environmental data; this needs to be extended to all
information relevant to sustainable development),
transparency, accountability and more participation
of civil society. These measures also help to avoid
unjustified reports of success.
Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004   Page 26
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                                                      II.
                                                 How to choose
                                                  indicators?


Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004        Page 27
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                    Three ways of deriving SDIs
•Top-down based on a specific ideology,
•Bottom-up based on the postmodern attitude
of“anything goes”, or
•In a combined bottom-up/top-down fashion,
integrating clients’ input with established
knowledge about indicators, indicator
systems, quality and operational conditions.

Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004   Page 28
Measuring Sustainability

      Top-down indicator development
         in neoclassical economics
One famous way of deriving sustainability indicators is
based on neoclassical economic theory, extended to four
capital stocks: man-made, natural, social and human
capital. Under this ideology (= means-ends-relationship)
•Human well-being is correlated with income and best
measured in monetary terms,
•The price to be applied is the market price, plus hypo-
thetical prices for a number of non-marketed goods,
•The value of a human life is the sum of its potential
future contributions to the production system (too sad
for elderly and 3rd World citizens
who are rather cheap ).
Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004   Page 29
Measuring Sustainability

•Future gains and losses are discounted, often with
the market rate (anything 50 years from now is
irrelevant),
•All capitals are fully substitutable against each
other (in practice, each – and in particular the natural
capital - is substituted against man-made capital).
As a result, income levels dominate the sustainability
calculations; all industrialised countries are sustainable,
most of all the USA. This is a measuring approach
promoted by the OECD, the Davos Group, and to some
degree by the World Bank.
Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004   Page 30
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•Only under such ideological assumptions of strong
comparability and commensurability is the
aggregation of capital stocks justified, and with it the
monetisation which is the basis for cost-benefit-
analysis in social and environmental politics.
•The resulting measures are cardinal indicators and thus
attractive, but based on questionable ideological
assumptions which are not made explicit.
•From a neoclassical point of view, the results are pure
and objective science, from all other points of view they
are results of ideological beliefs and scientific
hubris.
• Assuming strong comparability and commensurability
is in open contradiction to systems science results.
Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004   Page 31
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                                                       Normative ecology
•Normative ecology does not aggregate between
capital stocks, but it selects one or few specific
sustainability criteria. If aggregated within one
dimension, like ecological footprints, material flows
or biodiversity, they assume strong commensurability
on this level).
•The resulting measures are most often cardinal
indicators and thus attractive, but again based on
questionable ideological assumptions as to which
factors are most important (a human judgement
dependent on world views, context and the
assumption of strong commensurability) .
Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004                  Page 32
Measuring Sustainability




                                                                   Disaggregated:
                                                                   Environmental space


                                                       Aggregated indsices: e.g. MFA,
                                                       footprint, HANPP, exergy, emergy

Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004                                  Page 33
Measuring Sustainability


                             Bottom-up: anything goes
•Bottom-up approaches without a normative framework
(no structures, no hierarchies, no targets) are suggested
by discourse-based sustainability concepts. In this
ideology, all objectives must develop in the course of the
discourse.
•Sustainability criteria apply to the discourse as a
process (openness, inclusiveness, transparency, etc.),
not to its results.
•As opposed to the normative sustainability (above) and
the substantial sustainability (below), this approach
could be called “procedural sustainability”.
•Target-free sustainability is an ideological view.
Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004   Page 34
Measuring Sustainability

                                       Bottom-up / top-down
•Such approaches are based on a different world view:
a world consisting of complex systems with uncertainty
and unpredictability the rule rather than the exemption.
•Sustainability is not a destination but a direction or
orientation. Prevention applies for what we know,
precaution for what is unknown and partly unknowable.
•Different indicators must be simultaneously applied, re-
flecting amongst them the existing conflicts of interest.
•Neither aggregation nor selection, but integration
is the means of composing a
comprehensive result.
Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004   Page 35
Measuring Sustainability

•Different kinds of knowledge must be integrated,
leading to post-normal science.
•Combining different kinds of knowledge requires
multi criteria analysis MCA, comprising
quantitative and qualitative information. Ordinal
scales dominate.
•In the post normal science approach, scientific
insights provide a framework, filled with
results from discourses.
•Scenarios are used not to predict the future, but
as “flight simulators” to learn about the
consequences of decisions, and how to manage
catastrophes.
Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004   Page 36
Measuring Sustainability

•Science does not claim to know which results are
optimal and which risks are acceptable, but
informs the discourses.

Limits of scientific proof
With chemicals, casualties are detectable and their
cause can be statistically proven if 1 out of 10 to
100 persons is affected, whereas acceptable risks
are usually in the range of 1 in 100,000 to
1,000,000 being affected: limits to
be set are inevitably beyond the
reach of scientific proof.
Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004   Page 37
Measuring Sustainability

                                          The discourse process
•Organising processes on knowledge integration is
easiest on the local level; on higher levels, not
citizens but representatives of interest groups tend
to take part.
•The procedure is an indicator dialogue, illustrated
in the following slide.
•The process is iterative and may need a number of
cycles before coming to a general consensus.
•It might be restarted at any time if the need arises
due to external changes (context) or
internal ones (changing preferences).
Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004       Page 38
Measuring Sustainability




Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004   Page 39
The Prism of Sustainability supports not
Measuring Sustainability
only indicator development, but also helps
structuring and
presenting the
indicators
derived




Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004   Page 40
Measuring Sustainability


       Tools for a simplified presentation of
                      results
             Means definitively developing into the
             wrong direction
             Says that still action is needed, although
             the situation is ambivalent
             Indicates trends into the right direction
             (with the sufficiency of speed still disputable)


Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004   Page 41
Measuring Sustainability

                                   Colour-coding the Prism of
                                         Sustainability




Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004    Page 42
Measuring Sustainability



                                                       However,
                                                       even with
                                                       the best
                                                       indicators,
                                                       there may
                                                       still be
                                                       surprises on
                                                       the way.


Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004   Page 43
Measuring Sustainability




               III.
    Science for sustainability

                      The basis for deriving sound
                        sustainability indicators

Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004   Page 44
Measuring Sustainability


Science for sustainability
analyses complex evolving systems with non-
linear behaviour, thus dealing with reflexivity and
uncertainty, the impossibility to know.
uses transdisciplinary joint problem definitions
and produces complementary answers by involving
non-scientific knowledge and broadening the peer
community to involve all relevant stakeholders.
advocates system management through negative
feedback loops and dynamic framework conditions,
permanent adjustment and mutual learning.
cannot generate predictability and optimal
solutions, how much ever decision
 makers may request them.
Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004   Page 45
Measuring Sustainability

              To make the best of the existing knowledge, and to support its
              complementarity, at least one condition must be fulfilled, the

          Interdisciplinarity Minimum Condition
          “No discipline should base its work on assumptions
          which are in contradiction to the established body
          of knowledge of another discipline competent for
          the issue concerned.”
          As a consequence, disciplines themselves will see the need to
          modify their assumptions, thus making theories and conclusions
          change. The result will not be integration, but compatibility.
          It requires a willingness to learn on the side of the scientists
          (which should be part of their profession anyway).

Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004          Page 46
Measuring Sustainability


                                                       Competencies
•Rather obviously, there is no one discipline which
can claim to cover all indispensable aspects of
science for sustainability.
•We will have to educate students which are better
than their teachers in cutting across disciplines, in
seeing more than one side of a coin.
•They will need peer groups, academic societies,
journals, academic rewards, chairs and institutes.
•Science for sustainability will become
less of a new (sub-)discipline but more
of an organising principle.
Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004             Page 47
Measuring Sustainability



Cross-cutting
colleagues,
changing the
mode and
direction of
progress and
ignoring
established
symbols of
status can be
quite disgusting
Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004   Page 48
Measuring Sustainability


                                                       Universities
•are organised according to a disciplinary structure
rooted in the medieval ages. This impressive
tradition is no longer adequate for sustainability
problem solving, and the current reform processes
do little to solve this problem.
•Transdiciplinary working modes must be learned
in academic education, although there are few
scholars capable of teaching them.
•Even senior academics have to admit that they
cannot contribute more than one aspect to the
whole of sustainable development.
Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004              Page 49
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Science for sustainability
is problem-oriented and transdisciplinary. Such
characteristics must a funding demand of donor
agencies, and properly evaluated.
This needs new standards of excellence with
criteria which do not stem from any single of its
mother sciences.
Academic quality standards must refer to problem
solving capabilities produced which cannot be
measured by indicators like the sheer number of
PhD candidates.
Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004   Page 50
Measuring Sustainability




        REMEMBER:



        Your Mind is like a Parachute -
        it only Works when it’s Open !
Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004   Page 51
Measuring Sustainability


                  Thank you for your attention.
     To download this presentation and additional
                    publications you are invited to visit the
                   Sustainable Europe Research Institute at:
                                                       www.seri.de


      Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg,
      Joachim.Spangenberg@seri.de
Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg, Turku, December 13, 2004                 Page 52

								
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