Indicator-based evaluation of interlinkages between different sustainable development objectives (INDI-LINK) – Final Report

Giljum, S., Polzin, C. (2009)

INDI-LINK, a research project funded by the European Commission under the 6th Framework Programme, further developed and improved selected EU sustainable development indicators, assessed the interlinkages between different priorities of the EU Sustainable Development Strategy, and elaborated conclusions for future sustainable development policy making. The project combined the expertise of nine partner institutions from different countries and disciplines. This final report summarises the project’s main activities, research methods, results and policy recommendations.

The first work package (WP1) – Further Development of Sustainable Development Indicators – produced three major results. First, nine sustainable development indicators (SDIs) from the Eurostat list of “indicators to be developed” for sustainability reporting were advanced: Vehicle-km, External costs of energy use, Environmentally weighted indicator of material consumption, Total Material Consumption, Biodiversity index, Green public procurement, Administrative cost imposed by legislation, Unmet needs for healthcare, and Child wellbeing. The INDI-LINK team focussed on methodological developments. Quantitative pilot studies were carried out in selected countries with sufficient data. The second main result of WP1 was the identification and analysis of 17 emerging policy fields, including a suggestion and evaluation of possible indicators for these fields. From these two results, conclusions and recommendations drawn for the further development of SDIs, especially for those revised in INDI-LINK.

The second work package (WP2) – Assessment of interlinkages between different sustainable development objectives – produced five main outcomes. First, the INDI-LINK team designed an evaluation system to evaluate and compare potential methods and tools with regard to their ability to identify and assess interlinkages between different SDIs; 31 methods and tools were screened with this system. Secondly, the INDI-LINK team selected 17 methods (plus three from the DECOIN project) for a detailed assessment, based on case studies from the literature which consider various aspects of the interlinkages and interactions between different SDIs. No single method can cover all important aspects of interlinkages. Therefore, based on these evaluations, a third result from WP2 was the design of a “decisiontree”
which guides users to the most suitable methods for their specific assessment question. The fourth outcome was an empirical assessment of five methods to assess future interlinkages (simulation models and statistical methods) using case studies in the area of EU climate and energy policy. The assessment also included a detailed description of the abilities
and limits of these methods. Finally, WP2 produced recommendations for the further development of methods and tools for interlinkages assessment.

The third work package (WP3) – Policy Conclusions – produced three main results. First, a review of the state of the art in sustainability policy assessment was done with a focus on environmental sustainability issues. Secondly, based on WP2 and the results from other EUprojects (MOSUS, Forescene, petrE), a range of policies were suggested which use the synergies between different sustainability objectives in a complementary way. The main elements of this policy mix are environmental taxes and auctioned tradable permits in the framework of an Environmental Tax Reform (ETR) in combination with environmental regulation and subsidies for environmental industries. Voluntary agreements and eco-labels should play a subsidiary role. Finally, WP3 provided recommendations for the effective
implementation of the EU SDS objectives (in accordance with the main themes of the EU SDS). On climate change and clean energy, for example, the INDI-LINK team recommended the introduction of an ETR, more investment in green technologies to help the EU reach its targets, the acceleration of the auctioning of permits in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme,
and additional taxes or a separate ETS for aviation rather than inclusion in the EU ETS.

The INDI-LINK team used a range of dissemination channels to enhance awareness, visibility and understanding of the issues the project was dealing with and to assure a distribution of project results with key users and stakeholders. The project website (available at was set up as a core dissemination platform for project reports and
policy briefs. It provides detailed information about the project and presents the nine partners of the INDI-LINK consortium. The website enables the download of INDI-LINK project reports, presentations held at workshops and conferences and related papers.

The final project results were presented at the DG Research conference “Research on Sustainable Development Indicators” on 30 September 2009 and at the Eurostat Working Group on SDIs on 1 October 2009.

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