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CHAPTER 3

ENVIRONMENTALINFORMATION FOR BETTERDECISION MAKING

I begin with the truism that information is knowledge. Therefore, as does knowledge, information contains two different value aspects. The first pertains to the instrumental value of information, namely, that which can serve as an instrument in solvinga specificproblemat hand...Informationonly servesto broadenand enrichour views as individuals and as members of our respective societies, which, in turn, increases our abiUties to contribute to the processes of value formation that go on endlessly in all societies. (Kismadi, 1992, p. 27)

THE NEED: ENVIRONMENTAL INFORMATION FOR DECISION MAKERS

Good environmental infonnation is a key - namely, sustainable development - that provides a larger framework for environprerequisite for the ability of managers to cope with the increasingmental policy and goals" ly significant environ(Holtz, 1992, p. 130). It Environmental Information : a broad range mental impacts of their is now recognized of data, statistics, and other quantitative actions and decisions. throughout the world and qualitative information, which may Decision makers are that the global communbe biophysical, socioeconomic, or politisometimes surprised to ity faces serious threats to cal in nature; describes the current state learn the scope of the the integrity of the enviof the environment, helps the user to ronment and the natural effects of their decisions, understand the consequences of actions that affect the environment. resource base. It is also and the repercussions for their own enterprise, the widely recognized that natural environment, and virtually no policy, prothe public at large. There is growing evigramming, management, or lifestyle decision can be taken in isolation from the environdence that past mistakes have had real, perhaps irreversible, costs at a global scale. mental context - that, essentially, all decisionsare environmentaldecisions.The intimate Climate change, the loss of fish stocks, and spreading desertification and land degradalinks and interconnections among social, tion all show the global scale of the failure to health, economic, and ecological processes adequately comprehend the complexity of are more clearly understood and acknowlthe environment. Increasingly the public edged than ever before. Many difficult issues (and governments on their behalf) are of equity and distribution remain unresolved, demanding accountability by managers for particularly between North and South, and the broad, cross-sectoral, transnational, and the concept of sustainable development even intergenerational repercussions of their remains particularly resistant to definition; management decisions. . nevertheless, it provides a general framework "The context for reporting environwithin which the decision-making process must function to meet both environment and mental infonnation has changed in the last two decades in that there now is a context development goals. 61

--

THE CHALLENGE OF SUSTAINABILIlY

Access to high-quality, practical, relevant environmental information is crucial in order to be able to:

.

protect, sustain, and preserve ecosystems;

assess the impacts of human activity on the environment;

. . .

manage, in a sustainable way, the natural heritage and world resources in their broadest sense; allow for sound and sustainable decision making, including the incorporation of environmental and cosring considerations in the economic decision-making process; anticipate the degradation of natural resources and prevent costly curative actions; measure progress towards the achievement of sustainable development; and assess the long-term effects of management interventions (modifiedfromCroze and Vandeweerd, 1992, p. 105).

. . .

The objective of providing information to all levels of the global community is to bring environmental considerations to bear on all levels of decision making on resource utilization and development. "At the very least, information-generation programmes should remove from decision making the excuse of lack of information" (Crozeand Vandeweerd, 1992, p. 105).

WHAT IS ENVIRONMENTAL IN FORMA nON?

Environmental information covers a very 62

broad range of data, statistics, and other quantitative and qualitative information. This information may be biophysical, socioeconomic, or political in nature. What it has in common is that it describes the current state of the environment, or describes those external factors that may be causing changes or alterations to the environment, or helps the user to understand the consequences of actions that affect or are affected by the environment. Environmental information is, in a sense, the information necessary to allow decision makers to reduce the risk of making poor decisions when they are determining policies or program directions, designing projects, making investments, or targeting actions. "Such information permits decision makers to analyze cause and effect, to develop strategies for action, to manage natural resources, to prevent and control pollution, and to evaluate progress made towards goals and targets" (Environment Canada, 1992, p. 1). This is a very broad definition of environmental information, yet it is clear that information on all of these facets is critical if we are to achieve a holistic approach to managing the environment and keeping human impacts on natural ecosystems under control. Although the quality and integrity of the scientific database is obviously of crucial importance, environmental information is not limited to data books or statistical compendia. In the first place, raw data must be analyzed and digested, interpreted and synthesized. Scientific and technical analyses that are clearly understandable to specialists must be translated into terms that can be grasped by nonexperrs, or decision makers can end up "data-rich but information-poor" (Environment Canada, 1992, p. 2). Modes of communication or presentation of environmental information can vary widely, sometimes affecting the efficiency and timeliness of delivery. Certain users may be able to

ENVIRONMENTAL INFORMATION FOR BETTERDECISION MAKING

Assessing Our Progress

Despite the vast quantities of environmental data available, our level of success hasnot been particularly good in terms of supplyingrelevant, practical, timely environmental information in accessible formats. A report card on the quality and availability of global environmental information for decision makers might look like the following (after Mathews, 1992).

.

.

.

.

. .

.

.

.

.

.

Climate change: D (lack sufficient data on average ocean temperature, average atmospheric temperature, sea level changes, pack ice thinning, flow of nitrogen oxides, socioeconomic impacts of various climate change scenarios) Ozone: C (lack adequate measures of ultraviolet radiation, measures of tropospheric ozone, understanding of chemical behavior of CFCsand other ozonedepleting chemicals, as well as their alternatives) Biodiversity: D (lack adequate inventory and monitoring of existing species and habitats, measures of ecosystem health, measures of threatened and endangered species, economic values of species) Tropical forests: C (lack periodic measures of tropical forest area and types and rates of deforestation, measures of non-timber forest products, understanding of role of forests in stabilization of global climate) Energy: B (lack measures of renewable energy sources, greenhouse gas emissions) Human health: B (lack measures, in many developing countries, of mortality associated with environmental conditions, sanitation, human nutrition) Land and soils: D (lack measures of land degradation, soil erosion, land use and cover, urbanization, identification of fragile soils, effectiveness of remedial measures) Freshwater and oceans: C- (lack measures of groundwater and groundwater pollution, water use, water pollution, sediment flows, coastal ocean quality, chronic sources of pollution from land-based sources, inventory and monitoring of living resources) Air quality: D (lack measures of urban air quality, indoor air quality, transboundary flows and acid deposition) Toxins and hazardous wastes: D (lack measures of amounts generated, transported, treated, disposed, cleaned up, and of contamination, understanding of absorptive capacities of natural systems) Agriculture: B+ (lack measures of conservation of soils, water, wildlife,comprehensive understanding and monitoring of effects of intensive use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers)

This report card focuses on generating appropriate scientific data in support of decision making; the challenges of information analysis, integration, management, and reporting are not evaluated. Perhaps the greatest gap remains the lack of understanding of the links between environmental and economic processes: until we learn how to value the environment and the natural resource base properly, environmental policy making will never find its true course.

After J.T. Mathews, "Moving Toward Eco-Development' Developing Environmental Inlormation lor Decision Makers," Address to the Intemational Forum on Environmentallnlormation lor the 21st Century, held in Montreal, Canada, May 2124, 1991, Environment Canada, Proceeding" Environmenta"nlormation forum(Ottawa, Canad" Ministry 01 Supply and Seovices Canada, 1992), pp. 22-26.

63

THE CHALLENGE OF SUSTAINABIUTY

understand a statistical compendium or a raw data set, but it may be more common or understand more appropriate for the information to appear in the form of reports or studies, policy and program statements by both public- and private-sector organizations, television news reports or video recordings, or communicated through scientific periodicals, workshops, conferences and seminars, public information meetings, or trade fairs (Environment Canada, 1992).

WHAT ARE THE INFORMATION OF DECISION MAKERS? NEEDS

Before we can identify what the information needs of decision makers are, it is important to understand who the users of such infor-

mation are. In the broadest sense, every

member of the global community is a decision maker, using whatever environmental information is available, and making decisions that impact on the environment in a variety of ways. Some decision makers formulate policies and others do not; this is a fundamental distinction (Pearce and Freeman, 1992). Different groups will therefore have different uses for environmental information, as well as different needs with respect to the form in which it is presented to them. Information users who formulate policies include decision makers at all levels of government (national and local, including politicians, civil servants, and advisors), as well as in other types of federal agencies, bilateral and multilateral organizations, and in the corporate community. Corporate policy makers are also policy "recipients," making use of environmental information to ensure that they are in compliance with government regulations, and to assess their corporate achievements with respect to environmental goals. Private citizens, as consumers, typically need environmental information to monitor corporate 64

activity, to be aware of statutory rights and obligations, and to ensure their own personal compliance with regulations in matters such as refuse disposal, water use, or recycling (Pearce and Freeman, 1992). Awareness completes the full circle when the pressure of informed public opinion is successfully brought to bear on government and corporate policy makers. At each step in the decision-making process, there are different information users with different requirements. While many of the informational requirements are similar or overlapping, each user group has its own perspective and distinct needs in terms of the way the information is presented to them, and the end uses to which the information is applied. Table 3.1 describes the flow of information in the process of making environment-related public policies and decisions. Each step is characterized by a distinct set of actors and actions; at each step, different vehicles are employed in reporting the relevant information, and the essential charactetistics of the information itself also differ.

For example, scientific research [step 1] that identifies or analyses biophysical conditions must typically be published in peer-reviewed scientific journals in order to have credibility. Only after it has received that stamp of legitimacy does it become part of the information flow in the decision making process that ultimately determines public policy. From there, information is picked up and reported in activist Environment Non-Governmental Organization (ENOO)newsletters, industry journals and the press, usually as a call for action [step 2]. When public pressure becomes strong, corporate and political decision makers take action [step 3]. Anticipating this, analysts from different sectors will collect scientific, technical and economic information to begin formulating

ENVIRONMENTAL INFORMATION FOR BETTER DECISION MAKING

Table 3.1

-

Information Flow in Policy Decisions

Step 1: Problem is identified

Actors: Action: Scientists, and sometimes resource users (e.g., hunters or foresters) or observers (e.g., bird-watchers). Information is generated and analyzed through observation, research-oriented data collection and scientific analysis.

Step 2: Action on the problem is demanded/considered. Actors: Environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs); the media, and through them, the concerned public; industries and individuals directly affected by the problem. Information is used to draw attention to the seriousness of the problem, in order to motivate action for remediation.

Action:

Step 3: Alternatives for action are formulated.

Actors: Policy analysts from different disciplines (e.g., law, economics, environmental sciences, engineering) working for ENGOs, industry, government, universities and research institutes. Information is used to determine precise human responsibilities for the problem, costs and consequences of the problem, and costs and consequences of alternative courses of action.

Action:

Step 4: Courses of action are decided. Actors: Action: Politicians and their senior advisers and (in the private sector, when action is taken voluntarily or legally mandated) CEOs, Board of Directors, senior managers. Information is used to evaluate the impacts of different courses of action on the different constituencies to whom the decision-maker is responsible. on action is required.

Step 5: Feedback Actors:

Scientists, resource users and observers monitoring environmental effects; statisticians, economists, corporate managers and others monitoring economic and social effects. Information is generated to monitor the economic, social and environmental conditions and changes that occur in response to the chosen course of action.

Action:

From: S. Holtz. "'Reporting Environmentllinformation,"' in Proceedings: fnvironmentnl'nformation Forum, held in Montreal, May 2124, 1991, (Ottawa: Ministry of Supply and Services Canada, 1992), p. 132. Reprinted by permission of Environment Canada.

65

THE CHALLENGE OF SUSTAINABILIlY

Information Needs for State of the Environment Reporting

COMPONENTS OF THE ENVIRONMENT

.

. .

biological and physical characteristics of the environment (e.g., climate, chemistry, physical properties) biota (e.g., presence, diversity, numbers) resource capability (e.g., land capability, water recharge capability)

STRESSES

.

. .

levels of contaminants in the environment (e.g., furans, dioxins, nitrates, sulfur dioxide, leachates, CFCs) in air, soil, watet biota, and other media sourcesof contaminants (e.g.,outfalls, industrial sources, non-point sources, processes) stresses due to human activity (e.g., waste production, urban growth, ocean spills, contaminant production, orphan mine sites)

RESPONSESTO ENVIRONMENTAL STRESSES

.

.

changes in the environment (e.g., global watrning, acid rain, ozone depletion, endangered species, biomagnification in food chain) human health effects (e.g., incidence rates, links to environment)

HUMAN ACTIVITIES

. .

.

uses of environmental resources (e.g., land use, water use, wildlife consumption, paper consumption) consumption of natural resources (e.g., forest harvest, take of fish or wildlife, mineral extraction) management patterns (e.g., intensity, monoculture, soil depletion)

RESPONSE

. MANAGEMENT

. .

.

measures of activity (e.g., area protected, sites rehabilitated, amount recycled, sewage treated, trees planted, areas subject to environmental planning/control) energy use/efficiency (e.g., appliance efficiency, change in renewable/nonrenewable mix, public transport use, energy input for production of key goods and services) institutional response (e.g., regulation, taxation, and subsidy regarding environmental objectives, environmental review procedures, conservation strategy development, international activities).

From: Government 27-25.

of Canada,

The State ofCanada's

Environment.

(Ottawa: MinistJy of Supply and SeNices Canada,

1992),

66

ENVIRONMENTAL INFORMATION FOR BmER

DECISION MAKING

their own preferred alternatives for actions. At this point, the accuracy, reliability and relevance of the information available become cri~othe success of different proposalsoo.Finally, follow-up is needed [step 4]. Is the action taken having the desired effect on the environment? If not, was the science inaccurate? the technology unsuccessful? the scope of the problem underestimated? Are management violations being inadvertently or deliberately allowed? And are the socioeconomic effects acceptable? too costly? Is there a more elegant, cheaper or more effective way to approach the whole issue? Finally, the circle of information flow must be closed with ongoing environmental monitoring and analysis (Holtz, 1992).

. .

.

~

the resulting state of the environment,

the consequences of that state in terms of

impact indicators, and

the potential cost-effectiveness of policy responses;

is accessibleand easy to interpret, presentable to policy makers and decision makers in a concise and comprehensible manner;

~

is accurate and reliable, in terms of the

qualiry and timeliness of both the scientific data base and the analysis, manipulation, and communication of the information;

~

Whether the decision maker is formulating or respondingto policy will determine, to a great extent, the specific informational requirements in terms of the characteristics of the information, the style of presentation, and the method of communication. Yet there are some informational needs common to all: "At bottom, everyone needs to know whether or not an environmental ttend is significant, what its causes are, and what would be the costs and benefits of efficient policymeasures" (Pearce and Freeman, 1992, p. 62). Decision makers in general and policy makers in particular need information that:

~

can be assessed and assigned priorities, from the standpoint of ecosystem and species viabiliry, human life and health, depletion and productiviry of resource stocks, carrying capacities, etc., both in terms of the use and generation of the information; and

addresses the issues of distribution and

~

equity, i.e., indicates who gains and who loses from environmental change (Environment Canada, 1992; Pearce and Freeman, 1992).

MEETING INFORMATIONAL NEEDS

is guided by a clear understanding of the goal of sustainable development;

is presented within a framework of natural ecosystems, with particular emphasis on human-environment interactions; is designed to clarify:

the sources of pressure on the environment,

~

~

.

How can we begin to meet the informational needs and enhance the capabilities of such a diverse group of decision makers: from policy makers to policy recipients, from researchers to the general public, from NGO to government to corporate managers, in a context that ranges from local to global, from developing to industtialized, from North to South? Participants in the Montteal International Forum on Environmental Information in 1991 identified four major areas in which immediate action is required in order to 67

THE CHALLENGE OF SUSTAINABIUTY

improve information for environmental decision making in the 21st century. It will be necessary to:

~

broaden and deepen the base of scientific and technical knowledge concerning the fundamental links between the economy and the environment in order to increase understanding of these; extend and improve monitoring systems, and increase the cost-effectiveness and appropriateness of information management technologies; widen the accessibility and sharpen the "decision relevance" of environmental reporting; strengthen and expand partnerships among institutions that currently produce, analyze, and disseminate environmental information (Environment Canada, 1992, pp. 4-5).

~

~

~

Each of these" areas for action" will be discussed in turn. GeneratingNew Environmental Information

A viable database is the foundation of an effective environmental information system. One of the first challenges facing the global community in meeting the informational needs of decision makers is to fill the gaps in the scientific database by rapidly collecting and analyzing new data on all aspects of the environment and human-environment interactions that are poorly understood or underrepresented in existing databases. The gaps are many, including data on global climate change, biodiversity and species extinction, relationships between land use and degradation, ecosystem sustainability, the

status of renewable resources, air and water quality, hazardous wastes, and many other areas of interest. Regional gaps also exist in the scientific database, particularly in poor or inaccessible areas; these gaps must be filled. Fundamental to the expansion and refinement of the scientific database will be the establishment of long-term data collection programs, more effective monitoring systems, and more efficient use of existing monitoring systems and the data they generate. "Monitoringis the systematic, continuous, institutionalized collection, analysis and reporting of data and information. The first step in a monitoring programme is a baseline inventory, and monitoring may be viewed as a planned and orderly time series of inventories" (Croze and Vandeweerd, 1992, p. 106). While data acquisition is a fundamental part of a monitoring program, some gaps could be filled through more efficient utilization of existing data. For example, only about 5 percent of the data collected by the LANDSAT satellite monitoring program are actually used for analysis (Environment Canada, 1992, p. 9). The previous emphasis on data acquisition should give way to an emphasis on analysis, integration, and communication of existing data. Informarional needs and data collection must also be prioritized, so that the limited time and resources available for investment in data collection and analysis can be allocated efficiently and effectively.

Better Information Management Systems

"The data and information generated through monitoring programmes need to be stored, analyzed, interpreted and presented. The resultant compiled information can then be used for the production of sectoral or multisectoral, topic-specific or integrated assessments. A comprehensive data management system is required" (Croze and

68

ENVIRONMENTAL INFORMATION FOR BmER DECISION MAKING

Vandeweerd, 1992, p. 108). Computerassisted data management technologies are crucial to the management of very large bodies of information. The role of the computer in data management can range from the collection of data. through analysis, interpretation, dissemination, and communication, as well as storage of vast quantities of information. Examples of storage applications include tabular databases (simple data sets and statistical files in computerized formats), bibliographic databases and abstracts, and spatial databases. Many examples of international databases containing information applicable to environment and development concerns can be accessed fairly easily via a number of different routes (see Appendix 1). In addition, computer programs, software packages, and whole software systems are becoming indispensable in the handling and interpretation of environmental data; such technologies include a wide range of graphics software, statistical software, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and "expert" or "knowledge-based" systems. An important aspect of better data management will be to improve the comparability of data from different sources. The sources of environmental data are many and varied, and each source tends to collect information according to its own set of standards and guidelines. Data from different sources are often extremely difficult to compare because they have been generated using different sampling schemes, scales, recotding methods, quality assurance standatds, and classification systems (Croze and Vandeweerd, 1992). An important first step in the more efficient use of existing data and information will be to improve data aggregation and enhance cross-sectoral data integration. Standard guidelines should be developed that will permit the integration of data collected by individual nations, firms, institutions, and programs. Whetever possible, the "core" sets

of global environment and development data should be reworked and refined according to these guidelines. Computer-assisted technologies for handling and accessing information are becoming more widely available than ever before, both in terms of the quantity of materials that are available and their "friendliness" to users (see Appendixes 1 and 2). The development and implementation of expert systems, the improvement of telecommunications technologies, and the strengthening of international networks have contributed to this availability, and will continue to do so. The availability and the usefulness of computerized information management systems in a global context can be enhanced even more by facilitating the transfer of manageable technologies and expertise to developing countries and Eastern European countries.

Communicatingand Reporting Environmental Information

A data set only becomes information when it is accessible and understandable. Environmental reporting is the provision of information to the public and to decision makers on changes in the state of the environment and the factors that influence that state. There are many vehicles fot reporting environmental information, including: state-of-theEnvironment reports (SOE), environmental indicators and indexes, national environmental plans and policies (conservation strategies, sustainable development strategies, etc.), Environmental Assessment (EA) reports, and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)reports, environmental audits and corporate environmental reports, mass print, and the electronic media. Each of these methods has its own characteristics that make it appropriate to a particular step in the information flow.

69

--"',--'-'-.-'

THE CHALLENGE OF SUSTAINABIUTY

The ultimate goal is to enhance the accessibility and the decision-making relevance of the information. Accessibility and greater communication of environmental information can be enhanced by formally encouraging organizations and governments to develop regional and national environmental plans, conservation strategies, sustainable development strategies, etc. The development of clear, simple environmental indicators and indexes is critical to this process. The improvement of cross-sectoral and transnational information sharing is a fundamental part of enhancing communications. With respect to presentation, it is important to portray information on the state of the environment to the decision maker as effectively, as appropriately, and as practically as possible. In particular, there is a need for improving the methods of presentation of spatial information, which is, after all, fundamental to virtually all questions of environment, development, and sustainability. Geographic Information Sytems (GIS) are becoming an important tool for the portrayal of spatial information. A good presentation of spatial data will not only be understandable and visually effective, but will accommodate the linking of geographically related data sets, allowing correlation and other analytical approaches to the assessment of conflicts and the determination of causeeffect relationships. In addition, the use of innovative media, such as video cassettes, graphics, and multimedia presentation, can enhance the effectiveness of environmental reporting (Environment Canada, 1992). In a general sense, it is essential to work towards the removal of any barriers to the global sharing of environmental information. The flow of information describing the effects of Northern policies and lifestyles on Third World environments must increase. This involves not only enhancing communications, but protecting the freedom of envi70

ronmental scientists, writers, and those who use environmental information to criticize government policies (Environment Canada, 1992). It is also critical to remember that the utility of information of any kind, particularly when used in the formulation of policies, is determined to a great extent by the social and cultural context in which it is applied. Kismadi (1992) points to a shortage of "common reference points" in cross-cultural information exchange, and the need to develop such common points of reference if the current processes of globalization are to yield benefits that all can share equitably. He cautions:

We in the developing countries must ...exercise care in availing ourselves of information from abroad. First, we must ensure our continued openness to incoming information and promote irs inflow. At the same time we must carefully weigh, not only the validity, but also the applicability and the utility of, such information within our institutional, social and cultural contexrs (Kismadi, 1992, p. 28).

Institutions and Partnerships A variety of organizations and programs support the collection, analysis, interpretation, and dissemination of environmental information. Figure 3.1 illustrates the fundamental elements of institutional arrangements for environmental information, including various organizations, agencies, centres, and interorganizational partnerships; projects and programs; legislative processes, treaties, conventions, etc.; funding; and other supporting systems, including conferences, workshops, training programs, information exchange, and technology transfer. With respect to functions and requirements in the flow of environmental information, we can identify two different categories:

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THE CHALLENGE OF SUSTAINABILIlY

the producers and the users of environmental information (Nishioka and Moriguchi, 1992). The functions of institutions that are producing environmental information range from data collection and monitoring to data processing, analysis, and information dissemination. Very few organizations currently undertake the full range of functions, from data collection to data dissemination (Nishioka and Moriguchi, 1992). Decision makers, as users of environmental information, determine the specific uses for information at three different stages:

~

in the recognition and identification of issues;

in the evaluation of policy alternatives for responding and decision making; and

~

issues, including improvements in the assessment of scientific research results, building regional capabilities for global monitoring and environmental reporting, enhancing the integration and comparability of information, and building international consensus and partnerships. New partnerships must be forged to build on the strengths of existing institutions and reinforce past successes. The efforts of diverse organizations must be co-ordinated by encouraging flexibility, networking, and information sharing. Participants of the Montreal International Forum on Environmental Information (Environment Canada, 1992) suggested a constructive evaluation aimed at increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of existing international institutions and programs (including organizations such as UNEP,

WHO, WMO, FAO, OEeD, EEC,and programs such

~

in implementation and assessment of performance.

as GEMS and CORINE among many others). Coordination of the institutional structure and the transfer of information and skills can also be encouraged by expanding the use of directories and clearing-houses for information about existing institutions and the kind of information they generate or curate. At the national level, the role of environmental ministries can be strengthened, while also improving cross-sectoral integration and cooperation with respect to information generation and sharing. The availability of environmental information can also be enhanced via national networks of environmental reference centres, and by building partnerships among government agencies, NGOs, private sector organizations, and universities. Finally, the importance of funding cannot be overlooked. A specific portion of development assistance funds should be dedicated to the creation of partnerships, the strengthening of organizational capabilities, and the enhancement of environmental information quality and availability, in addition to encouraging national government

Table 3.2 illustrates how the institutional arrangement meets these needs through the various stages of data production. The target user and the specific function of the information, in turn, determine the criteria for evaluating the effectiveness of the institutional arrangement in meeting these needs (shown in Table 3.3). For example, in the identification of issues, accuracy and understandability of presentation might be the most important criteria, while in policy evaluation, the comparability and consistency of the data may be more important. Table 3.4 places various existing organizations and programs in the same matrix, showing how the users and producers of information can be linked up in order to make the best possible use of environmental information. Finally, Table 3.5 summarizes some of the ways in which existing institutions are adapting and strengthening particular functions in order to respond effectively to emerging 72

ENVIRONMENTAL INFORMATION FOR BETTER DECISION MAKING

Table

3.2 -

FUnctiof" of environmental infonnation at each stage of the data

produ,ction and policy process

STAGESOF DATAPRODUCTION STAGESOF POLICY PROCESS monitoring and data collection detection of changes in environment processing and analysis transfonnation to concise infonnation identification of cause and effect cost-benefit anall'Sis implementation monitoring evaluation of policy perfonnance promotion of public awareness dissemation

identification and recognition of issues

education! enlightenment

evaluation and decision making

provision of basis for evaluation and decisions

consensus-building

Table 3.3 -

Criteria for evaluating environmental production and policy processes

infomJation at each of the data

STAGESOF DATAPRODUCTION STAGESOF POLICY PROCESS monitoring and data collection accuracy/coverage of issues processing and analysis understandability of presentation dissemation

identification and recognition of issues

quickness periodicity

evaluation and decision making

historical and geographical coverage comparability/ consistency

identification of cause and effect cost-benefit analysis

appropriateness for target user

implementation

established methodology

simplicity/ measurability

.

accessability to the public

From: S. Nishioka and Y. Moriguchi, "InstitutionalArrangementsand EnvironmentalNeeds' in Proceedings: Environmental InformationForum,held in Montreal,May 21-24,1991, (Ottawa: Ministryof Supplyand ServicesCanada, 1992), p. 153, Reprinted by permissionof EnvironmentCanada.

73

------------

THE CHALLENGE OF SUSTAINABILIlY

Tilble3.4 -

Areils of responsibility ilnd operiltions of existing institut;ions ilt eilch of the diltil production ilnd policy processes

,

STAGES F DATAPRODUCTION O

STAGES F POLICY O

PROCESS monitoring and data collection BAPMoN

c.

,-ngand !OOtion

s

identification and - _l1!col1lition-of issues

. ---'--

enviroomn1;al ir

statistical compendium

{"I"""U

..'

GEMS1UKID

.--

evaluationaad

EMEP

decision making

natural resources accounting

NGOs (WRI, WWI)

implementation

GosOs alert system

green GNP

Table 3.5

-

Functions thilt need to be strengthened in order to respond to emerging issues

STAGESOF DATAPRODUCTION STAGESOF POLICY PROCESS monitoring and data collection global monitoring and quick reporting processing and analysis international comparisons dissemation

identification <md recognition of issues

right to know privacy

evaluation and decision making

assessment of scientific research results

integration with other policies consideration of costeffectiveness measuring the progress towards sustainable development

intellectual property right international consensusbuilding

implementation

Source: S. Nishioka and Y. Moriguchi,Theme paper four, "InstitutionalArrangementsand EnvironmentalNeeds, in Proceedings: EnvironmentalInformationForum(Otlnwa,Canada: Ministerof Supplyand ServicesCanada, 1992), p. 154.

74

ENVIRONMENTAL INFORMATION FOR BmER

DECISION MAKING

Table3.6

-

SummaryListof InstitutionalIssuesfor Discussion

1. Generalinstitutionalssues:environmentalnformation i i

.

.

. . .

complementary role-sharing between public/private, policy/research, central/local, and environmentaVother sectoral organizations defined functions for each individual institution as a producer and user of environmental information

efficient linkage among organizations and programmes improved national participation in international activities

.

stronger financial and legislative backing education, training, and other support systems to ensure expanded activity

2. Specific issues: changes in traditional problems areas

. . . . . . . . .

. .

institutional response to regional issues analysis and interpretation of environmental information for decision-makers improvement of data handling to achieve international comparability interrelarionships between environmental and other sectoral policies

the right to know and the protection of intellectual property rights

3. Specific issues: global environmental information

role of information and institutional arrangements in global environmental need for information from developing countries problems

prompt integration and interpretation of global-scale research results and monitoring data need to integrate information from other policy fields regarding control of the global environment strengthening global environmental monitoring

information measure progress made towards sustainable development through policies and programs

From: S. Nishioka and Y. Moriguchi, Theme paper four, "Institutional Amlngemenls and Environmental Information Needs: in Proceedings:Environmen.allnforma'ion Forum (Ottaw", Ministry of Supplyand ServicesCanada,1992), p. 161.

financing for these goals (Environment Canada, 1992). Table 3.6 summarizes a list of issues that require an institutional response. This list can serve as a check list for purposes of discussion. The resolution of global environmental problems and the achievement of sustainable management of natural resources will require action on many fronts. Decisions that respond to the growing need for environ-

mental sensitivity need to be supported by an effective information capability. Existing institutional mechanisms for the generation, analysis, and dissemination of information must, therefore, be strengthened, at the same time that new partnerships and new networks are being created to encourage cooperation and information shating. Public participation and the strengthening of diverse organizational links are key aspects of 75

THE CHALLENGE OF SUSTAINABILln'

enhancing environmental information capabilities on a global basis.

In our world and the one we are creating for the future, information will continue to be the engine of change. But that engine has to be fuelled with the insights and perspectives gained from broad public participation Information on sustainable development has to become a common tool in our search for common solutions. In the 21st century, information on sustainable

development, like critical global resources, must become the properry of the global community, and not of a technocratic or economic elite (Lindner, 1992, p. 31). When informed, the citizenry of the globe can themselves be the instrument for environmental accountability - knowledgeable and able to require accountability by their institutions and by the private sector for their common future.

76

ENVIRONMENTAL INFORMATION FOR BETTERDECISION MAKING

Questions for Review

1.

2.

3. Why is timely, relevant, high-quality environmental information essential for better decision making today? What are some of the types of information that are encompassed by the term "environmental information"?

What are some of the different sources for environmental information?

4.

5.

What are some of the most commonly used vehicles for the reporting or communication of environmental information?

In what ways do the informational needs of policy makers differ from those who are policy "recipients"?

Questions for Discussion and Research

1. Use Table 3.6 as the basis for a discussion of the best ways to strengthen

the institutional support systems for the generation, analysis, and dissemination of environmental information.

2.

Do you currently have access to computerized database facilities for your work? How might your organization improve day-to-day and projectspecific efficiency by enhancing access to databases and networks?

Statistics (or their interpretation) are known to be highly malleable, but databases can also throw a slant onto a subject. Can .such information be employed in a field progtam without relegating local knowledge to the backgtound? How can cultural setting influence the validity or applicability of environmental information?

3.

77 ---

THE CHALLENGE OF SUSTAINABILIlY

REFERENCES

Chapman, P. 1990. Cataloguing, Indexing and AbstTtU:ting of Canadian Uterature on Energy Research and Development. Ottawa: Canada Centre for Mineral and Energy Technology.

Kismadi, M.S. 1992. Enriching information. Proceedings:EnvironmentalInformationFornm.Ottawa: Ministry of Supply and Services Canada. Lindner, W.H. 1992. Uniting for the future. Proceedings:EnvironmentalInformationFornm.Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services Canada.

Mathews, J.T. 1992. Moving toward eco-development: Developing environmental information for decisionmakers. Proceedings: Environmental Information Fornm. Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services Canada. Pearce, D., and S. Freeman. 1992. Informational requirements of policy decision makers. Proceedings: Environmental Information Fornm. Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services Canada.

Croze, H., and V. Vandeweerd. 1992. "Monitoring and Data Management Technology for Environmental Assessment." In Proceedings: EnvironmentalInformation Fornm. Ottawa, Canada: Minister of Supply and Services Canada. Environment Canada. 1992.Proceedings: Environmental Information Fornm. Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services Canada. Holtz, S. 1992. Reporting environmental information. Proceedings: EnvironmentalInformationFornm.Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services Canada.

78

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