European Benchmark Indicators

12-07-2006 | Publication

There is a growing need for comparative indicators to measure Member State’s environmental performance. To fulfill this need, MNP has developed the European Benchmark Indicators (EBI) to draw comparisons between Member States. The database is primarily meant for decision makers, but is also useful for the general public and scientists. Measurement of performance in this way, within an enlarged European Union, facilitates the improvement of policy effectiveness in a Member State and stimulates learning from the success of frontrunners.

How to compare environmental performance of EU Member States

Country Perspective

MNP has composed an indicatorset of existing indicators that reflects the environmental performance on different themes and issues within the economic and social setting of a country. Especially within an European Union of 25 there is need for nuance. The environmental performance of countries can be very different because of differences in e.g. demography and economic structure. The user will be able to judge national environmental performance in a better way and within the proper country context. The air quality of the Netherlands is e.g. below average and heavily influenced by, among other things, the high car and population density. Performance judged by the deployment of clean air technology on the other hand gives exactly the opposite result: the Netherlands performs better than average.

MNP’s European Benchmark Indicators (EBI)

The EBI has been divided into two parts. First a socio-economic profile, that should put environmental performance into proper perspective. These indicators reflects e.g. countries’ economic performance, -structure and social characteristics.

Second, an environmental profile, that has been based on the OECD Pressure-State-Respons (PSR) framework. Within themes as Air Quality and Climate Change, performance is measured on the basis of environmental pressures, -technology, -quality and progress towards International Commitments. The individual indicator scores are not aggregated to a composite index as this is an area of methodological controversy.

The MNP indicatorset is a product of a quite pragmatic method of working and finds its rationale in the creation of a collection of “environmental policy stories”.

Other working methods

There have been several initiatives to develop a single indicator or index to measure the environmental situation in a given country. Examples are the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) of Yale & Columbia University; the Ecological Footprint (EF) by Wackernagel & Rees or the Living Planet Index (LPI) by the World Wildlife Fund.

Such composite indicators have the advantage that they provide an overall ranking of a country but also have quite a few disadvantages. For example, the Dutch score in the 2006 EPI ranking, 27th on a global scale, is heavily influenced by choice of the EPI indicators. Indicators as “nature area size” favour countries, like Finland, with large areas of nature and low population density or level of urbanization. The Netherlands with a high population density and urbanization and small nature areas score very low.

In the latest “State and Outlook 2005” report the EEA presents so called “Country Scorecards”. In essence, a status-, progress- and distance-to-target indicatorset on the basis of 9 environmental themes and as such fairly comparable to our EBI approach. However the social and economic setting in which the environmental performance of a country occurs is absent. Considering this to be an essential perspective, we have included it in our EBI approach.