ASQ - Energy and Environmental Division
Europe is involved in an effort to establish a continentwide environmental strategy. The European Environmental Agency (EEA), one of the leading bodies in this initiative, has outlined its method of determining environmental indicators. The details of this article can be found at http://themes.eea.eu.int/binary/t/tech_25_text.pdf.

The purpose of these indicators is to communicate the status of the environment for member countries and to clearly identify the areas of progress or of required attention. These indicators will be complemented by objectives and targets and will result in a more consistent and objective reporting format used by all participants of EEA.

EEA uses environmental indicators to

  • supply information on environmental problems to enable policy makers to value their seriousness,
  • support policy development and priority setting by identifying key factors that cause pressure on the environment,
  • monitor the effects of policy responses, and
  • raise public awareness on environmental issues.

Environmental indicators are classified under a DPSIR framework, incorporating the elements of drivers, pressures, state, impact, and response. This cyclical, causal model addresses driving forces and resulting environmental pressures on the state of the environment. The impacts result from environmental quality changes and the responses to these changes.

EEA classifies environmental indicators into four simple groups that address the following questions:

  • What is happening to the environment and to humans? (Type A, or Descriptive)
  • Does it matter? (Type B, or Performance)
  • Are we improving? (Type C, or Efficiency)
  • Are we on the whole better off? (Type D, or Total Welfare)

This approach could serve as a useful benchmark for all organizations and would enhance any environmental management system. As this is an evolving model, we await the continual implementation with great interest.

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