The use of the ecological footprint in local politics and administration: results and implications from Norway

Local Environment

Our experiences calculating a local ecological footprint of Oslo form the basis for a discussion of key methodological aspects supporting the use of local sustainability indicators. The footprint's strength is its ability to communicate simply the complexity of global environmental challenges. Initially developed for measuring per capita consumption at the national level, the footprint has been adopted at local and regional levels. We argue for adjustments in the footprint methodology when shifting from a national to a local policy context, to ensure the indicator's applicability in local politics and administration. First, the analysis should be limited to consumption aspects relevant to the local environmental policy agenda. Second, the analysis should integrate as much genuine local data as possible. We argue also that a standardised methodology based on the national footprint approach, with the main purpose of international benchmarking of cities, cannot but reduce the indicator's usefulness for administrative/political guidance, due to the methodology's lack of transparency and inability to identify local variations.