Sustainable development indicators (SDI) in the context of the precautionary principle

The project aims at strengthening the sustainable development indicators by establishing early warnings based on expert opinions on uncertainty and critical developments and the need for immediate action. The objective is to integrate the precautionary principle into sustainable development analysis in situations where there are uncertain and potentially serious consequences for the environment and other societal concerns.

Project details

Project manager
Iulie Aslaksen
NINA, DN, Fafo, BI, CICERO, SIFO, International research partners: Silvio Funtowicz, Clive Spash
Norwegian Research Council, Miljø 2015
Project term
01.01.2009 - 31.12.2011
Project status
Research field

About the Project

Intrinsically strong uncertainty about ecosystems demands the use of the precautionary principle when measuring sustainable development. The precautionary principle requires action to prevent irreversible destruction of the environment despite incomplete scientific knowledge about the extent of the problem and its consequences. Precautionary approaches are also relevant for other areas of great societal concern. The sustainable development project seeks to develop a communication platform for sustainable development, where biodiversity, climate, consumption, global sustainable development and social conditions are combined.

The project focuses on questions like:

  1. How can early warnings be captured in sustainable development indicators?
  2. How can large groups of researchers be engaged in giving expert opinions on uncertainty related to the environment and to other disciplines?
  3. How can politicians and environmental organisations apply this information in their work?
  4. How can early warning signals be translated into advice for policy actions?

The project cooperates closely with Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), Directorate for Nature Management (DN), Fafo, BI Centre for Climate Strategy, CICERO Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research, National Institute for Consumer Research (SIFO) and international and national experts.

The project is divided into four work packages:

  • The first package develops a conceptual framework for supplementing the SDI set in order to take into account strong uncertainty and improve the information basis.
  • The second package aims at establishing a communication platform for researchers with focus on “narratives” that capture present and future trends in biodiversity, climate, social conditions, consumption and global sustainability.
  • The third package consists of a survey with the general public and dialogues with scientists, politicians and environmental organisations.
  • The fourth package analyses the role of consumption as a main driver of environmental degradation.