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The concept of environmental space. Implications for policies, environmental reporting and assessments.

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Hille (J). Copenhague. http://temis.documentation.developpement-durable.gouv.fr/document.xsp?id=Temis-0075879

Ajouté le : 01 janvier 1998
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Experts’ Corner

no. 1997/2

The Concept of
Environmental SpaceJohn Hille

Implications for Policies,
Environmental Reporting
and Assessments

About EEA Experts’ Corner Reports
The European Environment Agency (EEA) is mandated to provide
information to the Community and the Member States, that will help
them to identify, frame, implement and evaluate policies, legislation
and other measures on the environment, and to keep the public
properly informed about the state of the environment.
In order to provide possible inputs to the developing work pro-
gramme of the EEA, and to stimulate debate on issues that may
contribute to the identification, framing and evaluation of environ-
mental policy measures, the EEA, from time to time, asks independ-
ent experts to summarise their views on topical or upcoming issues,
so that the EEA can consider publishing them as “Experts’ Corner
reports.
Experts’ Corner Reports do not necessarily reflect the views of the
EEA, or of any other EU institution: they are the opinions of the
author only. However, they are intended to facilitate the broader
dissemination of more recent environmental information that may
provide useful inputs into the developing environmental agenda.
The EEA hopes, therefore, that they will be of interest to the Com-
munity, Member States and other environmental stakeholders, whose
comments on the contents it would welcome.

August 1997
Prepared by John Hille
Design: Folkmann Design & Promotion
Printing: XXXXXXXXXXX
Cataloguing data can be found at the end of this publication.
Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 1997.
ISBN XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
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The contents of this report does not necessarily reflect the official opinions of the European
Environment Agency, the European Commission or other EU institutions. Neither the European
Environment Agency, nor any person or company acting on behalf of the Agency is responsible
for the use which may be made of the information contained in this report.

Foreword

The concept of environmental space is in in which the EEA is charged with special
one sense simple, yet potentially radical irne istpsonsibilities. Hopefully, it will also be
implications. It tells us something “we all found useful by a wider audience, including
know - that there are limits to rate at whtichhose with corresponding responsibilities at
we can exploit the Earth’s resources. Andt:he national level in European countries.
that there are even tighter limits to the
amounts we can consume in Europe, if weA draft version of the paper was presented
are to share fairly with other parts of the for discussion at a Roundtable on Indicators
world. for Sustainability, arranged by the EEA in co-
operation with FoE Europe in Copenhagen
But it is not equally simple to quantify thoisne March 1996. The Roundtable was at-
limits. Nor, if we do so and find that we artended by some 40 participants including
currently living in excess of our environmreens-earchers, senior government officials,
tal space, will it be a simple task to designpoliticians and NGO representatives. The
policies capable of bringing us back withina iut.hor is indebted to the convenors and
participants for stimulating discussions and
The debate on these issues is still at an eacrolnystructive criticism.
stage, though gaining momentum.
Throughout the process of writing the paper,
Introduced as an academic concept in theI have had the benefit of close co-operation
1980’s, the notion of environmental spacewith an expert group including Maria
was taken up by environmental NGOs in tBhueitenkamp and Philippe Spapens of FoE
early 1990’s. The first major effort to quanN-etherlands, Joachim Spangenberg of the
tify environmental space at the EuropeanWuppertal Institute, Prof. Michael Carley of
level was carried out in 1994 by the Wupptehre- University of Edinburgh and Andrzej
tal Institute in Germany, at the instigationKoafssenberg of the Institute for Sustainable
Friends of the Earth (FoE) Europe. Today, Development, Warsaw. Sincere thanks are
some national governments, including thodsuee to them and to Peter Bosch of the EEA
of the Netherlands and Denmark, are for fruitful discussions, contributions and
studying how the concept of environmentcalomments on successive draft versions of the
space may inform their policy-making. paper. They share no responsibility for any
errors or weaknesses the reader may find in
This paper has been commissioned by thethe present report.
European Environment Agency with the
objective of clarifying the implications of the Oslo, August 1996
environmental space concept for sustainable
development policies, as well as for environ-John Hille
mental reporting and assessments - two fields

Table of contents

Foreword........................................................................................ 3

1. The Environmental Space Conce.p..t................................. 7
1.1 Background ........................................................................... 7
1.1.1 Definition of the concept ...................................................... 7
1.1.2Why an input-oriented concept of environmental sp...a.c..e.?8

1.2 Quantification of environmental space -

The example of “Towards Sustainable Europe ................... 9
1.2.1 Equity principles in “Towards Sustainable Europe ............. 9
1.2.2 Limits to resource exploitation in
“Towards Sustainable Europe ........................................... 10
1.2.3 Discussion ........................................................................... 12

1.2.4 Quantification of environmental space
- concluding remarks .......................................................... 16
1.3 Environmental space, efficiency and economic growth ..... 17
1.4 Implications for policy-making and reporting .................... 17

2. Environmental Space and Sectoral Policies -

The Cases of Transport and Agriculture .....................1..9..
2.1 Introduction ........................................................................ 19
2.2 Transport ............................................................................. 19
2.2.1 Background ......................................................................... 19
2.2.2 Transport and environmental space ................................... 21
2.2.3 Factors influencing transport’s claim

on environmental space ...................................................... 21
2.2.4 Transport volumes .............................................................. 22
2.2.5 Transport modes ................................................................. 22
2.2.6 Resource efficiency within modes ...................................... 24
2.2.7 Capacity utilisation ............................................................. 26

2.2.8 Speed .................................................................................. 27

2.2.9 Conclusions ......................................................................... 27
2.3 Agriculture .......................................................................... 28
2.3.1 Materials consumption ....................................................... 28

2.3.2 Energy consumption ........................................................... 29
2.3.3 Land consumption (1): Reducing agricultural area ............. 29
2.3.4 Land consumption (2): Sustainable management .............. 29

2.3.5 Land consumption (3):

Reducing net “imports of foreign land ............................. 30

2.3.6 Conclusion .......................................................................... 31

3. Environmental Space and Indicator Syste..m...s.............. 33

3.1 Background ......................................................................... 33

3.1.1 Environmental indicator systems ........................................ 33

3.1.2 Indicators of sustainable development .............................. 34

3.1.3 More resource indicators needed

- not to the exclusion of others .......................................... 34

3.2 What to measure? - Resource consumption,

driving and braking forces .................................................. 34

3.3 Performance indicators, background

indicators and targets ......................................................... 36

3.4 How many indicators - for whom? ...................................... 37
3.5 Performance indicators - Resource consumption ............... 38

3.5.1 Land .................................................................................... 38

3.5.2 Materials ............................................................................. 39

3.5.3 Energy ................................................................................. 40

3.5.4 Water .................................................................................. 41

3.5.5 Marine resources ................................................................ 41

3.6 Background indicators (1): Driving and braking forces ...... 41

3.6.1 Introduction ........................................................................ 41

3.6.2 Resource consumption by sectors ...................................... 41

3.6.3 Consumption patterns and technologies ........................... 43

3.7 Background indicators (2) :

Factors affecting driving or braking forces ......................... 48

3.8 Background indicators (3): Policy responses ...................... 49

3.9 Background indicators (4): Effects of resource

(over)-consumption ............................................................. 49

3.10 Conclusion .......................................................................... 50

Appendix to Chapter 3:

Overview of suggested indicators and data availability ............... 51

5

4.

4.1

4.2

4.3

4.4

Environmental Space and

Environmental Policy Assessmen.t..s................................ 55

Introduction ........................................................................

55

Application to environmental impact assessment .............. 55

Application to strategic environmental assessment ........... 56

Potential for better integration of project-level and ..............

strategic environmental assessment within the EU

and Europe ......................................................................... 57

4.5 Conclusion .......................................................................... 58

1. The Environmental Space Concept

7

kamp et al. 1993) by Friends of the Earth
“If 7 billion people were to consume as(mFuocEh) Netherlands.
energy and resources as we do in the West
today we would need10 worlds, not one,T htoe Action Plan is an effort to actually
satisfy all our needsquantify the amount of environmental space
for some major resources, that will be avail-
- Gro Harlem Brundtlandable to each Dutchman in 2010. In so doing,
the authors impart a new meaning to the
term “environmental space itself. It is used
not only of the space available to all of
1.1 Backgroundhumanity, but also of tshhea r ein this space
that will accrue to the Netherlands (or to the
1.1.1 Definition of the conceptaverage Dutchmanif) ,t he global space is to be
The term “environmental space - or mordeistributed on what the authors regard as a fair
precisely the Dutcmhi lieugebruiks-ruimte basis1.
(literally: “environmental utilisation space),
is commonly credited to J.B. Opschoor “Sustainable Netherlands gave the cue to
(1987), although Opschoor himself has similar efforts in other countries, and most
pointed to an earlier source (Siebert 1982s)i.gnificantly to a study with a pan-European
In the words of Opschoor and F. Weteringpserspective,T o“wards sustainable Europe
(1994 a, b), the concept “reflects that at a(Snypangenberg 1994), carried out by the
given point in time, there are limits to theWuppertal Institute in co-operation with
amount of environmental pressure that thFeriends of the Earth Europe.
Earth’s ecosystems can handle without
irreversible damage to these systems or tIon “Towards Sustainable Europe (TSE),
the life support processes that they enablealntmeonirnvifen sedec.i s ape “thd as
The services provided by the Earth’s ecosqyus-antity of energy, water, land, non-renew-
tems, and for which there is a limited spacaeb,le raw materials and wood that we can use
include boths tock(s a sustainable fashion. It is furthermore inof renewable, semi-
renewable and non-renewable resources)made clear that “sustainability, at least with
andsink s to energy and materials resources, is(i.e. capacities to absorb waste, respect
pollution and encroachment). intended to includgelobal equ.iItnyother
words, we are exceeding our environmental
The “society for which the biosphere space for these resources if our use-rates
provides services is of course global. As cannot be reconciled with ecological
defined by Weterings and Opschoor, envi-sustainabilitayndequity. (The understand-
ronmental space similarly means the spacineg of “equity in TSE, as well as some
available toh umanity as a wfhoorl eu interpretations, are discussed intilisation alternative
of stocks and sinks. At least, this applies tsoection 1.2 below. Suffice it for the moment
stocks that are globally tradeable, and sintkossay that equityniostr egarded as compat-
that are global in extent. However, the saimblewith the present great North-South
authors point out that the recognition of disparity in per capita access to resources).
global limits forces us to face the issue of
how environmental space is toa llboec atedT ES nniigevoi ninit defTheo egta nael t tswot uh sedaptrfsorm Opschoor’s usa1 hThis autho
between nations and regions. points. The first is that the distributive asptseecdte (rellHils eheewgg-e sus ra
1995) that ambiguity
Following its introduction by Opschoor, the e uch.ioed dybht be avmig
concept of environmental space became itsh iencorporated into the concpt as smr“ eetor-nneival smentsuni ght
subject not only of considerable academicdTehfei noetdh einr itse trhmast oefn rveirsoonurmceenst -a lO sppsaccheo iosr’s foharearfeht rfo noitconirnv ealntme
discussion, but also of political interest in “ehscitsooncoksmy -. Founlrty,h ie.re, iT .nSopE fu tisomtuh eht nadocunrtehset ca ecarciugnt oa na-tion, regioro ndni divi.lausp
native country (Netherlands Council for theweHorsent
Environment 1994; Milieu 1994). The termnotion of aminimums ustainable use-rate ofllowr fopapeer eom sht,vehe tre p
gained much broader international currenrceysourcronmental shaiwsd earehe wgesa uadreps-
with the publication in English of tAhctei ones, so that envi paceeal spa-tnemnorivne“ yb
Plan for a Sustainable Netherla (nBdusiliec“ a sa llews aroofl“inegt-.n may rceh rothtferee ti tor phewhe e ol.tra

8

The Concept of Environmental Space

In the present paper, “environmental spacHeowever, it is fair to suggest that some of the
will be used in a sense that accords fairly more alarmist literature of a quarter-century
closely with the usage in TSE, namThele may actually have contributed to it. They: ago
maximum amounts of natural resources tchaastewfeor resource scarcity was often based on
can use sustainably and without violatingrgaltohbearlsimplistic interpretations of fact.
equit.y(“We may, depending on the context,
refer to the population of a country or of aThe new focus on resource consumption in
group of countries, such as the EU). the nineties does not, however, simply mean
that the debate over the human ecological
However, the possible existencmeionfi mumpredicament has come full circle. An upward
sustainable use-rates of natural resourcesow n dlularirut blya e fildletiewn iebttrep
not be considered in this paper. image.

1.1.2 Why an input-orientedThere are at least two important differences
concept of environmental space?between the thinking that underlies the
Clearly, the concept of environmental spaecen,vironmental space concept, and that
as just defined, becomes of most immediawtehich was common in the early 1970s.
importance if we believe
The first is that we have moved beyond the
•that the present global use-rate of somsteatic notions concerning resource limits. It
resources at least is unsustainable, or is generally recognised that improved tech-
nology can increase the exploitable potential
• that the present share-out of some of most resources (geological, geophysical or
resources at least is inequitable, and tbhiaottic) and even on occasion “invent
sustainability combined with equitableentirely new resources. However, these
distribution will mean that some peoplpeossibilities are niontf init.eThe fact that
at least must reduce their resource some people in the 1970’s mistook mineral
consumption. reserves for ultimately exploitable resources,
and falsely predicted the exhaustion of the
Equally clearly, the evolution of the (resoular-tter within decades, does not mean that we
ce-oriented) environmental space conceptc iango on extracting any amounts of miner-
the 1990’s reflects growing concern on boatlhs forever. And the fact that 6 billion people
scores. At first glance, this concern may today are eating, on average, slightly better
appear to hark back to the formative yeartsh oafn 4 billion were in the 1970’s, does not
the modern environmental movement - necessarily mean that it will ever be physi-
those which led up to the Stockholm Confcearl-ly possible to feed 10 billion an American
ence in 1972. The classic “Limits to Growtdhie,t. In fact, an increasing number of lead-
published in the same year, saw the exhaiunsg- agronomists appear strongly to doubt it.
tion of energy or mineral resources or the
insufficiency of agricultural resources as At the same time, there is a much greater
likely causes of a global catastrophe in theawareness today that etnhvei ronmental effects
next century - much more so than over- of exploiting resources set limits to the
pollution. acceptable rate of exploitation, which may
bemor estringent than those which physical
In the late 70s and early 80s, however, theavailability alone would impose. This applies
question of resource consumption lost both to energy (with impacts such a2s CO
ground in the Northern public awareness teomissions and radioactive waste), to non-fuel
those of pollution and other forms of envi-minerals (destructive effects of extraction as
ronmental disturbance. This was also reflewc-ell as processing and eventual disposal or
ted in political priorities as Departments odfissipation) and to biotic resources (negative
Environment and the like were establisheidm:pacts of intensive agriculture and forestry
“cleaning up - often at the end of the pipoen-biodiversity, erosion, physical hydrology,
took precedence over reducing the level oCfH4, N20 and NH3emissions, nutrient loss to
inputs to the economy. To the extent thatwater etc.) Some of these effects are impossi-
ener gcyble to delink from the rate of resourceonsumption was of major concern,
this was as much on account of price in- exploitation, while in other cases this is
creases and worries about short-term secuproitsysible only to a limited extent and with
of supply, as for ecological reasons. difficulty.
The reasons for this shift of emphasis are Now, if negative environmental effects (e.g.
complex and beyond the scope of this papeexrc.eedance of sink capacities) are major

The Environmental Space Concept

9

reasons for limiting resource consumptiono,nly when people in the now-poor countries
we may ask why environmental space shohualvde the purchasing power to actually claim
be defined in terms of resource consump-their fair share of environmental space.
tion only. The first reason is that it simplifies
matters. The major inputs to a modern However, there is much to suggest that it may
economy, each of which is associated withnoat merely be just, but also wise to plan for
host of environmental problems, can be such a situation within the first half of the
considered under relatively few headings.nIefxt century. If, for instance, the countries
indeed many of the environmental probleomf sEast Asia sustain their recent growth rates
are difficult to delink from the rate of of around 10% p.a., the whole region will in
resource exploitation, or if reducing the one generation have about the same per
latter is simply the surest and most cost- capita GDP as the OECD today - and twice

efficient way of reducing the former, thent ahe population of the OECD and CEE
concept which focuses on inputs is in itselcfountries taken together. It is difficult
cost-efficient. enough to imagine that one billion people
mightsustainab lcyonsume resources at the
The other reason is linked to the global present European rate, but quite another
equity aspect of the environmental spacething to imagine that 10-12 billion may be
concept. Most sinks are in fact regional ordoing so in 2050.
local in extent (major exceptions being
those for greenhouse gases, ozone depleting
substances and persistent toxins which ca1n.2 Quantification of environmental space
be globally distributed through ocean wat-e rTshe example of “Towards Sustainable
or food chains). By contrast, most resourcEeusrope
are globally tradeable. The disturbances to
which their extraction, harnessing and/or It follows from the discussion above that the
processing give rise consume sink capacitaiemsount of environmental space for any
where these processes take place, not (negcivese-n resource that is available to the citizens
sarily) where the resources are ultimatelyof a country or region, will depend on
consumed. In other wordosu,r consumption of
sink capacities is largely mediated via oura )cotnh-e amount that one estimates can be
sumption of resources.sustainably exploited at the global level,
if the resource is considered globally
If we are to talk of a globally fair distribution tradeable, or at some lower geographical
of rights to put pressures on the environ- level if not;
ment, then we must begin by talking about
the distribution of resource consump2 the understanding one has of “equity,tion. b)
and the particular consequences this may
The second important point about the have for the country or region in ques-
environmental space concept, compared to tion.
much previous thinking about resource
limits, is - precisely - the emphasis it placIens this section, we shall first see how these
on global equity. “Limits to Growth, for two sets of problems have been addressed in
instance, skirted the issue of distribution the “Towards Sustainable Europe study, and
entirely, and other major futures studies owfhat conclusions it yields regarding environ-
the seventies assumed that a large consumnte-si EST pies.untrn coopeaE ruf roapeclas
tion gap between North and South would the most ambitious effort so far at roughly
persist for as long as it was worthwhile quantifying the environmental spacemfoosrt
thinking about. Even the Brundtland Com-major inputs to the European economy, and
smciessniaorni oe, nthviasta tgheed ,N ionr tiths affatveor u4r0e dy eeanresr gwyotuhledrefore a natural point of departure. Aft2e Ar -i samedsimilar point
s ill be consuming three times more per wards, we shall consider how the conclusiboyn sWteregsinnd a
t of that study might be modified through91( c 49“ :)a...scOporho
other possible approaches to questions (ac)rofrep s’yrtnuoine ncma
capita than the South. and (b).tidybaliatnis sue enn thds oepenoriv-nofs rmte
By contrast, the environmental space con-latnerp emen ge-urssite
1.2.1 Equity principles ingu hhwtaet shtor is con-ra
tcheaptt , aacsc edsesf itnoe rde asobuorvcee, si nsvhooluvleds ( tahs ea prruilnec“iTploewards Sustainable Europelentasumed, ictpeesrrwhofe iv eht eremnorivne
with some unavoidable exceptions) be The main premise in TSE is that a countryi’mspacts occur, and hence
teriqeusi.t aTbhliys sish aorf ecdo uarmsong peetohipclea li ind aelal l,c owuhnei-cnhvironmental space, or fair share in thee basis ofanccs esoush bldese -bathsilo deht n
will become a politicael aannd ecologicalrealriteysources which can be sustainably exploipctoreonddsumtopioin .narhtreut athc
globally, should be determined by its share

10

The Concept of Environmental Space

in global population. There are, however,1.2.2 Limits to resource exploitation
some important modifications.in “Towards Sustainable Europe
To quantify the sustainable use-rate of re-
The first is thacth anges in population sharessources, knowledge is needed both of their
after the year 2010 should not affect counpthriyesisc’al availability and the environmental
environmental s.pIancoewords, countrieseffects of exploiting them. If precise andther
whose population goes on growing after tchoatmplete knowledge is not available, esti-
date will see thepire r capi teanvironmental mates must be made.
space decreasing, whereas it will remain
constant in countries whose population isIn addition to scientific facts or estimates,
constant and increase if population declinheos.wever, such quantification must necessar-
ily incorporate value judgements about the
Apart from this modification, TSE upholdsdegree of environmental degradation or risk
the principle of equal per capita shares fotrhat we are willing to accept, and also about
all countries in the casese noefrg yandnon-obligations towards future generations.
fuel mineral,s TSE, the sustainable use-rate of major Inwhich (with some qualifica-
tions in the case of renewable energy sourllwo:sdea sof sestimeacturces issoe
and low value-to-weight minerals) may be
regarded as globally tradeable.Energy: The space fofro ssil fucelo nsump-
tion is limited by the need to reduc2e CO
In the casestoifmberandagricultural lan,demissions enough to avoid a global tem-
however, TSE defines environmental spacpeerature increase of more than 0.1 degree
on the basis ocfo ntinentraelsources. The per decade, or an ultimate increase of more
premise is that Europe should be self-suffit-han 2 degrees. Based on IPCC estimates,
cient, not in an absolute sense, but in thethis means halving global emissions by
sense that the amount of land used in oth2e0r50, to a per capita level 77% lower than
continents to produce for export to Europtehe present European average. The reduc-
should not exceed the amount used in tion in fossil energy use could be slightly
Europe to produce for others. On this poinlte,ss, as indicated in Table 1 below, if some
the modification of the environmental spaccoeal is replaced by gas. Howenvuecrl,e ar
concept accords with the thinking behindenergy is ruled out as being associated with
the concept of the “ecological footprint unacceptable risks.
(Wackernagel 1993).
The availability orefnewa belenergy is based
In TSE, wate ris for obvious reasons definedon an assessment of European resources. In
as ar egion arlesource. It is impracticable (anpdrinciple, solar energy could be globally
can be ecologically undesirable) to transptorratded as hydrogen or possibly super-con-
very large quantities of it over very long ducted electricity. However, the main con-
distances. Therefore, people’s environmesnt-raint on solar energy development accord-
tal space for water use will depend on whiantg to TSE is not absolute physical availabi-
can be sustainably extracted in the regionli toyr - be it at the European or the global level
drainage basin they live in. - but the amounts of materials required to
construct solar energy systems.
Similarly, the sustainable use-raltaen do ff or
construction and other non-agricultural Non-fuel minera:l sTSE takes an unconven-
purpose smust be determined at a sub- approach to the question of non- tional
continental level, depending inter alia on renewable raw materials. The problem is
population density. However, TSE suggestnsot seen as one of limits to the amounts of
an approximate guideline value for the EUspecific raw materials that may be con-
as a whole. sumed. Instead, it is seen as one of limits to
the aggregate “material input to the
TSE contains no explicit judgements on hoewconomy, defined as the total amount of
environmental space should be distributedmaterialsm oveidn the course of economic
withi nthe “floor princi-activity (see box). According to assessmentscountries, beyond
ple: that everyone’s basic needs should beby Prof. F. Schmidt-Bleek and co-workers at
satisfied. The reason given for not discusstihneg Wuppertal Institute, the total material
ntra-national distribution is that people’s input to the world economy must be halved
judgements regarding distributive justice if the environmental impacts of movement,
vary as between countries; therefore, theseextraction, processing and dissipation of
issues must be left to the political processmaterials are to be reduced to acceptable
within each country. levels.

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