Environmental Indicators in Slovenia

The web portal Environmental Indicators in Slovenia provides access to over 100 indicators which use graphs and comments to present the environmental trends in Slovenia. The indicators are organized into thematic groups – chapters covering environmental components (e.g. water, air), environmental issues (e.g. climate change, nature protection, loss of biodiversity, waste management) and the incorporation of environmental content in the formulation of sector policies (e.g. transport, agriculture, tourism, energy, instruments of environmental policy).

Why Environmental Indicators?

Environmental indicators are among the most effective tools for reporting on the environment. They are based on numerical data that demonstrate the state, a particular feature and above all the development of the selected phenomenon. Thus the indicators serve as warning signs for certain trends. They help us measure or determine the quantity of numerous and diverse aggregated data. The term ‘indicators’ therefore denotes data selected and presented in an agreed manner which we attempt to tie to environmental policy objectives. Appropriately selected indicators that are based on a sufficiently long time series of data may point at key development trends of a specific phenomenon. They may assist decision-makers in environmental planning and management as well as help the general public understand the environmental issues.

Figure 1: Environment Management Cycle
Source: Guidebook to Environmental Indicators, CSIRO, 1998

Figure 2: Environment Management
Source: CSIRO Australia © 1998 - 2009

Choosing environmental indicators

Sets of indicators are formulated using an assessment framework which helps determine the function of each indicator. The United Nations Commission for Sustainable Development first used a tripartite framework (Driving Forces – State – Responses) for sustainable development indicators. The European Environment Agency expanded this model to a five-part framework known as DPSIR (Driving forces – Pressures – State – Impact – Responses). Each of the components reflects a specific purpose of the framework (Figure 3):

Driving forces are socio-economic factors and activities which either increase or mitigate the pressures on the environment, e.g. the extent of economic, transport or tourist activities.

Pressures are direct anthropogenic pressures and impacts on the environment, e.g. pollutant discharges or use of natural resources.

State implies the current condition and trends of a certain environmental phenomenon such as the degree of air, water and soil pollution, biodiversity in a specific geographic area, the availability of natural resources (e.g. wood, freshwater).

Impacts are the effects of the changed environment on the health of humans and other species.

Responses are reactions of the society to environmental issues. Responses may include specific state measures, e.g. taxes on the use of natural resources. Decisions by businesses and individuals, e.g. corporate investments in pollution control or purchases of recycled goods by households, are equally important.

Figure 3: Assessment Framework developed by the European Environment Agency
Source: European Environment Agency, 2002

Presentation of indicators

All indicators are presented in the same manner; they include specific elements and follow the format shown in Figure 5. Such a fact sheet comprises elements of methodological description (name, definition, methodology) and data/information (data & assessment), which are hierarchically upgraded, as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Model scheme of an indicator in Environmental indicators of Slovenia system

The images next to the title of the indicator graphically illustrate the classification of the indicator in the DPSIR Assessment Framework and the assessment of the trend symbolized by a daisy. The symbol summarizes the expert evaluation of the phenomenon examined by the indicator on the basis of the data presented and the set objectives. The main points of the indicator analysis are given in the key message.

In order to effectively evaluate the development of a certain phenomenon, the envisaged trend and intensity of development must be clearly identified. Each indicator is therefore accompanied by a goal. The required trends are mostly drawn from the fundamental document laying down an environmental protection programme, i.e. the Resolution on the National Environmental Protection Programme (Official Gazette of the Republic of Slovenia, no. 2/2006), as well as from other sectoral documents and programmes.

Each indicator is given a definition providing basic information on the methodology of conducted measurements and on the presentation of the indicator. The indicators employ internationally verified methodologies and are thus generally comparable on the international level. The indicators were prepared using methodological sheets for indicators drafted by the European Environment Agency, primarily from the Core Set of Indicators. Where so required by a certain phenomenon, the manner of monitoring, accessibility of data or by any other technical factor, the methodology has been adapted to conditions specific to Slovenia.

The quantitative values of a given indicator are expressed mainly as annual values from 1992 onwards and are shown in graphs. The indicator is further detailed in a comment, which interprets the trend, explains possible reasons for it and outlines the implemented and planned measures to improve or preserve the current state of the environment.
Trends assessment signs in individual indicators
trend which allows for achieving defined targets in quantitative and qualitative sense
unidentifiable trend, lack of development to achieve qualitative or quantitative goals, possibly variable trend within the indicator
unfavourable trend

The section Methodology contributes to the transparency of the monitoring methods employed for the selected indicators. In addition to the data presented in tables, this section further describes the data sources used for the indicator and provides additional notes on the methodology.

The data used for the environmental indicators were collected from databases at the Slovenian Environment Agency, as well as from sources at other institutes (e.g. Statistical office of the Republic of Slovenia, Agency of the Republic of Slovenia for Agricultural Markets and Rural Development, Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia etc.). The reports obtained through data analysis and integration and accompanied by expert opinions may assist decision-makers in their political deliberations and may also serve to satisfy the public's right to be informed on the state of the environment and the efficiency of environmental policies.

Figure 5: Format of selected indicators presented at the web portal Environmental Indicators in Slovenia (http://kazalci.arso.gov.si)

The future development of indicators

Experience by other countries and international institutions shows that indicators are a sufficiently cost-effective and useful tool for monitoring and reporting on the state of the environment and on the progress of environmental policies. In the future, the Slovenian Environmental Agency will strive to enhance the quality of input data and information as well as to achieve comparability of the selected set of indicators with international sets. We will endeavour to bring the indicators in line with the national objectives of environmental protection and to select the indicators which reflect sustainability in the environmental dimension of Slovenia's development.

Prepared by: Nataša Kovač, Urška Kušar, Irena Rejec Brancelj