The aim of this paper is to assess how the indicator sets presently used to monitor sustainable development in the European Union (EU) and Latvia reflect resource consumption and the production and use of anthropogenic substances.
The study was conducted by analyzing different sources as well as statistical information on development character in Latvia and human impact at first in respect to use of chemicals.
Many of the analyzed sustainable development indicators related to resource consumption interpret a reduction in consumption as a negative phenomena and thus contradictory to sustainability. The only relevant EU and Latvian indicator related to the use of anthropogenic substances is production of toxic chemicals. The EC Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulation is being implemented in the EU in an attempt to ensure the safety of chemicals through the whole chemical supply chain.
A sustainable development indicator should consider the decrease in resource consumption as a positive trend. As an important aspect at the assessment of sustainability is monitoring of use of chemical substances. In Latvia, the information on production, import, distribution and use of chemical substances is dispersed between several institutions and thus an overall picture is lacking. As the REACH regulation requires registration of chemical substances exceeding certain quantities, there is a necessity to elaborate an approach to identify such substances. Enterprises that already provide data on chemicals to responsible authorities are important for a targeted enforcement of REACH requirements in Latvia. The existing approach of chemical substance management represents an attempt to manage point sources of anthropogenic substances with little attention being devoted to the more numerous small diffuse sources, which could be the hidden part of the iceberg. The limited access to compiled data on chemical substances within REACH makes it difficult to use it as a warning sign in political or public discussions regarding one of the central aspects of sustainability.
One of the main risks to global sustainability is the exceedance of the Earth's carrying and assimilative capacity through excessive resource consumption and anthropogenic loading. In the analyzed EU and Latvia, sustainable development indicator sets the reduction in consumption is frequently interpreted as a negative trend thus making the overall assessment regarding resource consumption inconclusive. As long as gross domestic product as a major indicator for macro‐economic activity does not reflect environmental sustainability and well‐being and society does not adequately value natural and human resources and until more comprehensive indicators are developed which better take into account social and environmental aspects, striving for economic growth will be the main cause of resource overconsumption.
Ābolin¸a, K., Kazerovska, K., Zīlāns, A. and Kl¸avin¸š, M. (2011), "Monitoring resource consumption and anthropogenic substances in the EU and Latvia", Management of Environmental Quality, Vol. 22 No. 6, pp. 725-742. https://doi.org/10.1108/14777831111170830
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