From endangered narwhals and the upcoming climate conference in November in Paris, to the urgent expansion of renewable energy: there are countless, new and important challenges that concern the environment directly - so why write an article about indicators? For that exact reason! A new open-source interactive online tool, developed by a team of researchers from all over Europe, offers each and every one of us an insight into green economy indicators, navigating us through what is a very complex and complicated issue.
No aspect of the environment can be monitored without indicators. Whether it's the number of individuals of a threatened species, the share of renewable energies in the electricity mix, or whether carbon dioxide emissions are measured per capita or per country - indicators are inescapable, and we need them to be able to deal with challenges.
In politics too, they are essential for measuring the success (or failure) of policy measures and for noticing problems. And in the field of economics, when it comes to methods of measurement, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) still reigns supreme. However, this indicator ignores not only some areas of the (unoffical und paid) economy, but also environmental damage and growing social inequality.
When politicians, NGOs and organisations or scientists want to measure the so-called greening of the economy and society, they come up against one particular problem: there are thousands of possible indicators, including Greenhouse Gas Emissions Intensity (based on GDP), the Recycling Rate of E-waste and the Global Cleantech Innovation Index. Finding the right indicators can be like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. Not to mention the fact that different issues of course require different indicators.
It's not just the sheer number of indicators that are overwhelming, but also the fact that they're constantly changing: new indicators continuously bubble up to the surface while others become obsolete because they are no longer fed with fresh data. The result: an indicator jungle which makes it difficult to track developments in environmental policy and the economy, let alone to test them.
The EU is currently financing a project that aims to provide some direction through the indicator jungle, sort of like a mixture between a torch and a compass: the Network for Green Economy Indicators (NetGreen). One of the tasks of the project, (which is led by the Berlin Ecologic Institut), is to collect all of the indicators that are useful for measuring developments towards a greener and more just society. It has taken roughly two years for the conosortium of different European institutions to identify these indicators and to establish the links between them.
But the aim of the project isn't just to make these results accessible to a small group of politicians, policy advisors and scientists - they're for everyone. In order to do this, researchers have developed an interactive search engine that users can utilise to find the suitable indicators for their needs, as well as the relevant information. It isn't just important for NGOs and journalists to have an overview of this kind of open data, but also everybody who is suspicious of general assertions and gut instincts. Let's take Germany for example, a country with a strong green movement. Who ever would have thought, for example, that despite the increasing rise in environmental awareness in Germany, the amount of rubbish produced per person has been rising steadily since 2006?
How do you make data even more beautiful?
Make it accessible.
Our writer Marius Hasenheit is currently collaborating on this project as a Junior Researcher at the Ecologic Institute, and welcomes any feedback or comments on the project and the search engine.
Translated from an article written by Marius originally published on our German platform.