How Sustainable is Santiago?

  • Jürgen Kopfmüller
  • Jonathan R. Barton
  • Alejandra Salas


The objective of this chapter is to measure the performance of the Santiago Metropolitan Region and to demonstrate how the Helmholtz Integrative Sustainability Concept and a set of indicators can serve as a tool to support decision-making by public, private and civil society actors for sustainable development. The chapter combines results for selected headline indicators with those of sustainability performance in the various fields presented in more detail in Chaps. 6–13 of this volume. The exercise of setting target values as necessary reference lines to identify existing strengths and weaknesses is clearly an incentive to goal-oriented policy and planning. The analysis reveals positive trends for some of the indicators, which deserve continued support, but also tremendous challenges in others bearing negative trends. The chapter concludes with a synthesis of the sustainability challenges ahead. This includes reflections on the conceptual and methodological dimensions of this exercise, and suitable institutional responses.


Santiago de Chile Sustainability indicators Sustainability performance Sustainable development Urban and regional planning 

14.1 Introduction

A sustainable development approach to urban and regional policy and planning requires the effective integration of different variables and dimensions present in the city region, and the tracking of these over time against targets. This chapter seeks to bring together the different thematic issues noted in the previous chapters of this volume and to present them in a synthetic, manageable way. In order to make statements about the development of a city or region, it is vital that basic performance information be available to decision-makers.

By giving an overview of regional performance through the selection of key variables that can be traced over time and provide headline or general sustainability indicators, it is possible to contextualize the more detailed data that is provided for certain sectors but often not linked to others. This is commonly referred to as the ‘silo’ approach to information storage. By looking at several variables and their trajectories over time, and fixing specific targets according to normative criteria, narratives of city region development as opposed to specific projects (e.g., the Sanitation Master Plan or Transantiago) or territorial spaces (e.g., municipalities or peri-urban localities) can be constructed. It is also possible to establish the synergetic impact of policies, plans and investments as city region development is generated over time. While it is imperative that specific features of urban and regional life are resolved with targeted investments, e.g., in housing and infrastructure, it is also vital that the city region is not understood as a series of fragments. A holistic, integrative perspective on the city region is both feasible and necessary, and calls for difficult decisions on determining what the ‘vital signs’ of sustainable development actually are.

This chapter seeks to develop a short list of indicators for the Santiago Metropolitan Region in order to measure the overall performance of the city region. It acts as the glue that binds more sectoral views on metropolitan challenges, capacities and responses. It also serves as an overarching contribution to understanding metropolitan performance according to sustainability criteria, established via the Helmholtz Integrative Sustainability Concept (see  Chap. 4), in a particular case. The outcome of this type of analysis serves to inform decision-makers by identifying sustainability challenges and prioritizing adequate responses. An overview of existing indicators and their application in the Santiago Metropolitan Region is given in Sect. 14.2. Whereas Sect. 14.3 refers to overarching headline indicators for Santiago, Sect. 14.4 provides a synthesis of indicators that emerge from specific policy fields. Section 14.5 is a brief reflection on indicator design and application.

14.2 The Design and Application of Indicators in the Santiago Metropolitan Region

Chapter 40 of Agenda 21 clearly states the importance of being able to monitor and evaluate policy and planning processes that seek to generate more sustainable development. Article 40.1 makes the point that “In sustainable development, everyone is a user and provider of information considered in the broad sense. That includes data, information, appropriately packaged experience and knowledge.” To operationalize this, the objectives outlined in Article 40.5 point to the value of “timely, reliable and usable information” across different political and planning scales, as well as the need “to make relevant information accessible in the form and at the time required to facilitate its use.” Despite the apparent logic of the statements, the challenge has rarely been met in these processes, although progress has been made in the sustainability sciences in this regard.

The statement that best sums up this situation can be found in Article 40.17: “There already exists a wealth of data and information that could be used for the management of sustainable development. Finding the appropriate information at the required time and at the relevant scale of aggregation is a difficult task.”

As with any planning or management process, the need to assess performance over time is a sine qua non. There is little evidence of this in most urban contexts, however, nor has it been debated much in public arenas. Consequently, little is known about how the metropolitan system operates and whether interventions, from programmes to projects, can steer it towards more sustainable outcomes. Piecemeal interventions are therefore supported by piecemeal information, which often complicate discussions on how urban development is evolving. We have only scant information about system performance, about its operational elements and their synergies, or about how individual and societal welfare can be maximized, while at the same time critical natural capital is maintained.

In their development of systemic sustainability analysis, Bell and Morse (2001) identify the selection and application of indicators as crucial to moving from an initial position to one that has advanced and become more sustainable. As well as pointing out the urgency of context-specific understanding (diminishing the ‘one size fits all’ approach to urban indicator sets) and the role of stakeholders in identifying these, they use the abstraction of ‘amoeba’, and the need to respond to ‘good amoeba’ and ‘bad amoeba’. If indicator sets are presented as rose charts or similar formats and reveal changes over time in absolute or indexed formats, they can appear as non-uniform masses of amoeba that mutate with each data update. To move in the direction of ‘good amoeba’ calls for an ex-ante conceptualization of desirable indicator trends and a shift towards this particular outcome.

Three further elements worthy of consideration are provided by Pinter et al. (2005), who suggest, firstly, that a small set of indicators has greater relevance for decision-makers than for technical specialists in thematic arenas. This idea is also supported by Rogers et al. (2008), who refer to the ‘seven, plus or minus two’ law of social psychologist George Miller (1956), stating that individuals can manage between five and nine independent facts of a linear problem at any given moment. Although computers can manage a surfeit of data, the generated output reverts to this law at some point, as decision-makers have to apply it to a specific issue or planning process. This is probably why the concept of headline indicators has emerged so strongly within the sustainability indicator experience. Despite the complexity of the sustainability of socio-ecological systems, a small set of key indicators must still be made available to decision-makers, regardless of the wealth of data behind them. Secondly, Pinter et al. (2005) highlight the significance of indicators being related to policy targets and, thirdly, that socio-ecological indicators are compatible with macro-economic indicators and the budgeting process. This third point is as critical as the first two in terms of these indicators becoming mainstream within public financial administration.

The elements mentioned above are not easy to remedy. The challenge of creating viable indicator sets that are both used and useful in decision-making processes remains significant. Nevertheless, the rising interest in the development of aggregate indices (Barton et al. 2007; Schushny and Soto 2009), the recognized opportunities of headline indicators, the emergence of goal-oriented indicators, and the push towards performance measurement in models of contemporary public policy assessment all point to the search for suitable remedies.

Indicator sets that have been generated since the Rio Conference reveal that sustainable development indicator sets co-exist with three other principal indicator set types: public performance planning indicators; sectoral management and planning indicators; and ‘state of the environment’ planning indicators (Gudmondsson 2003). This typology is also evident in the Chilean context. Although it is difficult to identify to date what might be termed sustainable development indicator sets at national, regional or local levels, these were considered by the National Environment Commission (CONAMA) during the late 1990s, with several authors contributing to the process (Blanco et al. 1997; Quiroga 2001). However, they were never implemented. Neither the national Sustainable Development Council nor the national environmental policy for sustainable development (both 1998) established sustainable development indicators (see Barton and Reyes 2008). The environment information system (SINIA), on the other hand, is an outcome of this post-Rio (1992), post-basic environmental law (1994) process, albeit relatively weak in terms of data provision.

On the environmental side, there are the reports published by the National Statistical Institute (INE) and the irregular ‘state of the environment’ reports compiled by the University of Chile in collaboration with CONAMA and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). In terms of socio-economic data, this is more widespread with longer time series but has little relevance to changes in environmental quality and resource use. The challenges of improving environmental data provision and of linking socio-economic with bio-physical transformations remain crucial.

At the multilateral level, the incorporation of environmental data into the CEPAL statistical yearbook marks the growing recognition of environmental data as accompaniment to social (e.g., the Human Development Index published by the United Nations Development Programme UNDP) and economic data managed by diverse authorities (e.g., the National Statistical Institute-INE, Central Bank, Finance Ministry and Economy Ministry in the Chilean case). In terms of public performance planning and sectoral planning and management, numerous instruments have been generated and although indicators do exist, they are often specific to projects or programmes and biased towards programme budgetary management.

Much of the latter development in Chile is due to modernization of the government programmes introduced under the leadership of President Eduardo Frei in the late 1990s, i.e., tighter administration of public spending and systems in terms of budgetary allocation, spending and objectives. This has led to a centralization of power in the budgetary directorate of the Treasury (DIPRES), which to date does not require government programmes and investments to meet sustainable development objectives (as outlined in the 1998 policy, for example). However, there may be an opportunity to move in this direction in the near future, since legislation that created the Ministry of the Environment, the Environmental Evaluation Service and the Environment Superintendency contemplates the establishment of a transversal Sustainable Development Council of Ministers to ensure that sustainable development resonates across the ministries and is not only pursued by one.

Instruments such as the Ficha CAS (defining which households benefit from state subsidies), the CASEN survey (a panel-based household survey for baseline socio-economic and consumption data) and the SECTRA origin-destination transport survey are examples of data sets currently used. Whether they provide indicators as such or are linked to drivers of development and other data sets is a moot point, since indicators should have clear parameters as well as target values and timetables. It can therefore be stated without hesitation that although considerable information in the Chilean national and regional context is available, it has rarely been converted into or used to analyse indicators. Perhaps the most familiar indicator set that followed a public performance planning logic is the Ambient Air Quality Monitoring (MACAM) network in Santiago, which produced an air quality index based on illness costs (ICAP) and subsequent control measures for transport and industry according to endangerment levels (alert, pre-emergency, emergency). What is clearly lacking is a sustainable development indicator set that operates on a national and regional scale, bridges sectoral and territorial issues in an integrative manner, and provides headline indicators following the philosophy of the ‘seven, plus or minus two’ law that for policy purposes is crucial to decision-makers across the public and private sectors and civil society.

Despite the current absence of a single set of sustainability indicators for the metropolitan region, existing initiatives have clearly been driving in this direction in recent years, and it is thus likely that it will become a sine qua non of regional development planning in the near future. It is with this context in mind that the following sections outline results for some headline indicators.

14.3 Sustainability Performance Based on General Indicators: Strengths and Weaknesses

The analysis of the sustainable development performance of the Santiago Metropolitan Region is based on a key set of 12 headline indicators. It complements the indicator sets used to determine sustainability performance in the policy fields presented in  Chaps. 6 13. An original set of 120 indicators was reduced to 18 and based on data series and scale availability (i.e., municipal, regional and national samples), for example, and data quality. Of these 18 indicators, six were finally eliminated for reasons explained below. Target values based on recent trends, proposals by supranational organizations, international comparisons, and existing needs and capacities were developed for the remaining 12 indicators. Being normative, they are neither correct nor incorrect. Instead, they represent performance goals generated via an expert group process. Stronger participatory processes can help to ensure the legitimacy of outcomes with regard to targets and timetables.

Some examples of the six indicators omitted are as follows. The indicator ‘rate of unionization’ is useful in terms of participation and potential governance issues. However, although employed in European contexts, it is particularly problematic in the Chilean case. During the 17-year dictatorship in Chile, unions were banned and most prominent unionists were ‘disappeared’ or went into exile. The union movement failed to return to pre-1973 levels of relevance and membership following the transition to democracy in 1990. In fact, unions remain a marginal actor, despite the sectoral importance of the copper workers, for example. Nevertheless, the push towards sub-contracting and other precarious contracts (to reduce permanent staff and increase flexible exploitation of employees) has severely impacted on the labour movement and its mobilization capacity. As a consequence, and given the low levels of union membership in the region (and the fact that membership is mostly national rather than regional), this indicator was deleted.

Another example is ‘public debt per capita’, which is not measured regionally. Furthermore, municipalities, as administrators of education and local health budgets, are subject to control by the national auditing office and not permitted to draw on capital markets. As such, only the national government holds public debt. Thus, it is difficult to establish the situation at regional level, despite the potential use of such an indicator to determine the long-term stability of the local economic system and public finance.

‘Biodiversity’ and ‘Protected areas’ are also problematic. Although the region is a global hotspot of Mediterranean biodiversity according to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (Reid et al. 2005), available information is scant. Failure to value biodiversity and protected areas for ecological services and other benefits leads such issues to be viewed as marginal in many planning mechanisms. Finally, ‘Educational spending’, which is the responsibility of the municipalities, varies considerably as a percentage of total spending (between 37% and 42%), making it a difficult measure to analyse and assess. Nevertheless, increased spending on this item compared to others should be a measure of investment in public education, albeit the high level of spending on private education should not be forgotten. In view of the need to improve the quality of education and the equality of access to it, the focus on public education is justified.

The final 12 indicators are presented as a metropolitan headline sustainability indicator set suitable for the description of transversal development outside more specific policy fields. As with all sets, these indicators have their strengths and weaknesses. Given the lack of regional data on carbon emissions, for example, and the potent role of carbon in diverse local and global environmental impacts, national emission data is adopted, with the awareness of the obvious approximation problems of doing so. A further example of complexity is the use of Internet connections per household that reveals a great deal about access to information, which is central to education and participation in decision-making. Bearing in mind that recent technologies are currently shifting Internet users from cable to mobile connections, this indicator, although useful to show trends to date, will have to be redefined accordingly in the near future.

Concerting a conceptual framework of indicators into practice and ultimately into decision-making processes is clearly a complex undertaking and involves numerous concessions along the way. These practical steps of grounding a somewhat abstract scientific concept in management processes entails responding to data availability restrictions and a range of inadequacies, such as the absence of time series or changing measurement frequencies, spatial scales or methodologies over time. Consequently, the final list is neither consistent with the initial proposition nor fully developed in terms of systemic interaction complexities (Gallopin 2003). Nonetheless, it is viable in its current form in terms of its advantage to decision-making processes, which is its ultimate goal.

The 12 indicators that ultimately remained on the list are presented in Table 14.1. They fulfil the basic ambitions of the Helmholtz Integrative Sustainability Concept outlined in  Chap. 4, drawing on the socio-economic and socio-ecological dimensions of regional development. Admittedly, the precise mechanisms by which different variables influence each other are not entirely clear and require further cross-impact analysis (e.g., Renn et al. 2007) and research. On the other hand, the variables do serve their purpose of suggesting the various balancing forces at work in the region. Other methodologies that operate from basic data trends and generate more complex indices, such as the Genuine Progress Indicator, have been applied in the region to cover the second half of the 1990s to the early 2000s, and complement the indicators sketched above (effectively building on these second-generation lists to produce a third-generation indicator or index) (Barton et al. 2007).
Table 14.1

General sustainability indicators

Infant mortality rate

Gini coefficient

Young people (14-17y) not attending school

Percentage of overcrowded houses

CO2 emissions per capita

Human Development Index

Violent crime rate

Poverty rate

Green area per capita

Percentage of Internet connected households

Degree of male/female wage equality

Unemployment rate

Source: The authors

Initial results of the indicator analysis, mainly based on data time series and distance-to-target considerations (as far as target values exist), reveal that there are several positive trends in the Santiago Metropolitan region, including declining poverty levels, the HDI index (based only on data for 1994 and 2003) and a decrease in infant mortality, all of which implies an improved sustainability performance in terms of these criteria. Positive, primarily socio-economic, indicators must be contextualized with other, more negative trends, particularly in the field of environmental quality, e.g., CO2 emissions per capita, but also crime levels. There are improvements in many of the indicators, although much discussion revolves around the rapidity of change and the distribution of the corresponding effects, very much along the lines of the problematic income distribution indicator measured by the Gini coefficient, which has changed little in recent decades. These indicators and their significance are discussed in the following paragraphs.

In terms of the conceptual basis of the analysis, variables are clearly aligned with the key topics described by the substantial sustainability rules. ‘Securing human existence’, for instance, is closely associated with infant mortality, the Gini coefficient, wage inequality, poverty and unemployment rates, and overcrowding. ‘Maintaining society’s productive potential’ refers for the most part to CO2 emissions, green space and educational attainment. Finally, ‘preserving society’s options for development and action’ specifies Internet access and violent crime rates. In terms of instrumental rules, there is repetition of the above-mentioned variables, indicating that these are not exclusive to particular rules but transversal, e.g., wage equality, educational spending, the Gini coefficient and unemployment rates.

In terms of rules and indicators relevant to ‘securing human existence’, it is fair to say that Chile has made great strides since its return to democracy in 1990. In particular, poverty rates have fallen significantly (see Fig. 14.1). Poverty is the principal factor that precludes people’s capacity to meet their basic needs autonomously and lead a life of human dignity – the basic sustainability goal at the individual level. Here, according to the definition of the Planning and Cooperation Ministry (MIDEPLAN), a person is defined as “living below the poverty line” if he/she is forced to live on a monthly income that is less than twice the value of the basic commodity basket (excluding public transfers).
Fig. 14.1

Percentage of people living in poverty (Source: National System of Municipal Information 2010)

This decline in the poverty rate also implies improvements in related indicators, such as infant mortality (here defined as the risk of babies dying before the age of 1), which halved between 1990 and 2007 (see Fig. 14.2).
Fig. 14.2

Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births) (Source: Ministry of Health 2008)

These two variables reveal the close relationship between certain indicators, as they reflect different facets of the same phenomenon, more aligned to the UNEP indicator approach that focuses on so-called Driving force-Pressure-State-Impact-Response processes. There is little doubt that strong economic growth rates at national and metropolitan levels, in the Chilean case driven directly and indirectly by copper and non-traditional agricultural products (NTAX), have played a key role in the declining poverty rate. However, social policies should not be overlooked in terms of the attempt to target specific groups for redistribution of benefits. The Ficha CAS – a household application form for public benefits – was used as a tool by MIDEPLAN to identify the poorest families in society and facilitate welfare payment transfers during this period (see Clert and Wodon 2001). As with many socio-economic indicators, it should be recognized that the democratic period witnessed a medium-term recovery process following the economic crisis of 1982–1983 which seriously affected Chile due to its heavy export orientation (as it had also done in 1929–1932) and its dependency on copper export revenues.

This positive trend notwithstanding, a consideration of the target values for these two indicators – based on supranational organizations such as the WHO and the Millennium Development Goals perspective – makes it clear that a further 50% reduction is imperative if a standard comparable to OECD countries is to be achieved. This should be the claim and the ambition of the principal Metropolitan Region of a country like Chile.

Rates for household overcrowding – an example of the failure to meet basic needs – also declined over the same period (see Fig. 14.3). This is the case in particular with respect to ‘medium overcrowding’, i.e., three people sleeping in one room. ‘Critical overcrowding’, i.e., more than three people sleeping in one room, has also dropped, but to a lesser degree. To a large extent, this trend is due to construction of a vast number of social housing units dating from the early 1990s (marking the highest number of units ever built). Aligned to OECD rather than other Latin American countries, target values should be set at a level of approximately 50% below current values, revealing the need for corresponding programmes and (public) investments.
Fig. 14.3

Household overcrowding (Source: Ministry of Planning 2006)

Against these positive trends, concerns remain about rising violent crime rates, for instance (see Fig. 14.4). This aspect is all the more acute, since personal security and the perception thereof are critical to human well-being and quality of life. The indicator used here is ‘Reported serious crime cases per 100,000 inhabitants per year’, where ‘serious crime’ includes robbery with violence or intimidation (surprise or force), vehicle theft, theft, injury (mild or serious), manslaughter and rape. Delinquency and crime, in particular violent crime, and the fear of crime remain the key preoccupations of urban inhabitants across social groups. Additionally, delinquency is in many instances associated with drug use and commercialization. While Santiago compares favourably with other cities in Latin America (see  Chap. 2 of this volume), the trend for this indicator has taken a negative turn since the 1990s – not unlike other metropolitan and national scales. Concerns about the ongoing increase of violent crime are currently the principal challenge to public decision-makers. Gated communities and private security companies in many areas of the city are a visible response to this process, while in poorer communities local gangs are active in destabilizing community cohesion and security.
Fig. 14.4

Reported serious crime rate (per 100,000 people) (Source: Ministry of the Interior 2009)

In terms of tolerance, solidarity or adequate conflict solution mechanisms, these factors tend to endanger or even erode social cohesion, a precondition for sustainable development. Target values based on pre-2000 levels, justified by their orientation towards the level of OECD countries, point to the extensive political and societal measures demanded.

Income (in)equality is one of the few areas with a systematic measurement of the distributional issues particularly relevant to sustainable development. Unequal income distribution generates inequality of opportunity for a dignified human life. By analogy, wage equality, e.g. with respect to gender, is a precondition for gender-related equality of opportunity and should be pursued in sustainability strategies. Here, income distribution is captured by two indicators: the Gini coefficient and wage (in)equality by gender (see Figs. 14.5 and 14.6). The Gini coefficient is the real distribution of total population income (Lorenz curve) compared with a perfectly equal distribution. It can range from 0 (meaning complete equality) to 1 (complete inequality). Wage (in)equality is defined here as female average income as a percentage of male average income. This is not a representation of equal wage for equal work, since occupation profiles for each gender are in fact different.
Fig. 14.5

Wage inequality by gender (Source: Ministry of Planning 2004)

Fig. 14.6

Gini coefficient (Source: Ministry of Planning 2008)

Both indicators show an absence of significant progress for more than 20 years. In 2007, a commission (the Mellor Commission on Work and Equality) was established to identify ways of moving the equality agenda forward. However, very little planning is evident for this complex undertaking. Consequently, the Santiago Metropolitan Region suffers from the Chilean national syndrome of being among the 10% worst countries in the world for income distribution, constantly bearing Gini coefficient values above 0.5 (see UNDP 2009). An orientation in terms of the average for European countries would imply a Gini coefficient target value of about 0.3. The minimum goal should be below the 0.5 line, which is regarded – for instance, by the World Bank – as a threshold value for high inequality (see the World Bank’s annual World Development Reports). With respect to the wage indicator, Santiago is no exception to the widespread global phenomenon of unequal pay for equal work along gender lines. Here, the target value should be 100%, conceding that a more informed view would require the consideration of occupational qualities and profiles. Given the persistent ‘machismo’ in Chilean society, the structural and cultural obstacles to moving forward are obvious. Nevertheless, the situation alters with each generation, as female educational and employment aspirations are realized and family roles change. In this sense the election of the first female president in 2006 was symbolic.

With regard to ‘maintaining society’s productive potential’, progress is less clear than in the previous rule set. CO2 emissions per capita, a key indicator in terms of the logic of decoupling societal development from fossil fuel use and its deleterious effects on climate change, continue to rise. This is intensified by the heavy increase in private vehicle traffic, the difficulties in the energy carrier mix and energy security, primarily as a result of shortages in gas deliveries from Argentina, one impact of which is a surge in the use of diesel (for further detail, see  Chap. 9). The chief concern of this indicator is to raise data on the Metropolitan scale. The calculation in Barton et al. (2007) for the year 2002 is based on work carried out in collaboration with the National Energy Commission, but not on a regular basis. Interestingly, in 2002 Santiago performed about 40% better than the national average, although both remained at a low level, at least in OECD terms (see Fig. 14.7).
Fig. 14.7

CO2 emissions per capita (Source: National data: United Nations (sf); Regional data: Barton et al. 2007)

Despite these data shortcomings, the high relevance of this indicator make its use essential to at least give an impression of the current situation. Discussing a target value here is not an easy task, since it preempts questions such as “What economic development path should countries like Chile take?”, “What level of resource use efficiency is feasible?”, and – above all – “What right do industrialized countries, as the historically predominant CO2 polluters, have to demand emission limitations from developing countries?”. Against this background, 3 t/capita could be a reasonable target value for Chile and Santiago in 2030, allowing in the meantime for some increase above this limit.

Another indicator deals with green space, which is a key issue for human well-being and heads concerns for urban improvements in the 2008 survey of urban life by the Ministry of Housing and Urbanism (MINVU). Green space softens the ‘urban fabric’, provides areas of recreation, and contributes to diverse environmental services. In the definition here, only public green space is considered. Not considered are: airfields, agricultural areas, aggregates, park avenues, soccer and other sports complexes, cemeteries, hills, buildings, hospitals, ecological reserves, protected areas, streams, military establishments, roundabouts and universities. Since 2000, the figure for this indicator has remained at approximately 3 m2 per capita (see Fig. 14.8), which is well below the WHO guideline of 9 m2 per capita. The distribution of green space is highly variable, favouring higher income groups in the east of the Metropolitan Area. This environmental justice issue has been highlighted by the work of Romero and Vásquez (2005). Since green areas are important not only for leisure and recreation (as identified in the MINVU survey), but also for temperature regulation (‘heat island’ effect), storm water infiltration and other ecological services, their absence remains a significant social justice challenge. As such, efforts will be necessary both to meet the WHO standard and to reduce the inequitable spatial distribution of green space to an acceptable level.
Fig. 14.8

Public green area per capita (Source: National System of Municipal Information 2009)

Internet connectivity (or the possibility of using it) has already and will in the future gradually become a precondition for suitable access to information. This is vital to sustainability with respect to objectives such as equality of opportunity, participation in societal decision-making, and improvement of human capital. The indicator here is defined as the percentage of households connected by cable. The last decade saw an increase in this percentage from 25 to almost 50% (see Fig. 14.9). Given the wide social divisions left unexamined by regional data, however, acquisition of data on Internet access remains a problem. Internet access is growing, but its unequal distribution among socio-economic groups – a phenomenon found in many other countries – leads to an exacerbation of equality issues in this regard. A target value of 80% by 2030 seems reasonable, assuming that in 2030 wireless technologies will have replaced cable connections.
Fig. 14.9

Percentage of households with Internet access (Source: Undersecretariat of Telecommunications 2010)

Unemployment is the chief reason why people are unable to meet the needs required to live autonomously. In a society with few public transfers for the unemployed, this leads to a heightening of informal activity. Informal activity does not cover pensions and health care costs, is precarious, and can lead to increased risk and vulnerability in terms of family well-being over time. Here, the unemployment rate – defined as the percentage of unemployed inhabitants aged fifteen and over – is used as an indicator. From a level of around 15% in the mid-1980s, statistics have varied between 7 and 11% in the last 15 years (see Fig. 14.10), a trend that can be seen as stable and at a level comparable to that of OECD countries. Thus, a target value for 2030 of 4% should be realistic, including a possible 6% by 2015 (by comparison: economics conventionally considers 3% full employment). Describing and analysing the topic of unemployment remains complex, given current data collection procedures and the difficulty of distinguishing between informal sector and self-employment. This lack of clarity on formality and informality complicates the overall picture. Furthermore, the number of informal workers has declined over time and the stability of certain kinds of contract work is still open to question.
Fig. 14.10

Unemployment rate (Source: National Statistical Institute 2009)

In terms of creating and improving capacities for future generations, both basic and higher education are crucial to realizing equal opportunities at the individual level and increasing capacities for societal decision-making. Consequently, the international sustainable development agenda is now focusing on this issue with the UNESCO Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005–2014). From the large variety of existing indicators dealing with the topic of education, the percentage of the population aged 14–17 not attending school was selected. It covers both the area of basic education and the precondition for higher education. Over the last 15 years, the performance of the Metropolitan Region, similar to the national level, has improved. Both levels currently share the same percentage (see Fig. 14.11). However, the growing number of average school years per capita is hampered in particular by relatively low attainment levels in international ranking exercises. An increase in the number of young people entering higher education may reduce some of these problems.
Fig. 14.11

Population aged 14–17 not attending school (Source: Ministry of Planning 2006)

14.4 A Synthesis of Sustainability Performance Across Thematic Fields

In addition to performance analysis, the policy fields examined in  Chaps. 6 13 will be scrutinized for their representation of the typical issues of metropolitan development. The results described in detail in these chapters demonstrate the key role of the Santiago Metropolitan Region as, for example, a consumer of resources and a producer of waste and pollution. As a habitat of diverse risks and with strong evidence of the critical distributional aspects of mega-urban development processes, the use of indicators to reveal possible linkages and interdependencies between thematic fields is vital.

With respect to land use, the expansion dynamics of recent decades, for the most part housing and infrastructure driven by population and economic growth, have impacted heavily on the environment, both in the urban centre and on the fringe. Additionally, land-use changes facilitated or even driven by Metropolitan planning instruments, in particular the increase in built-up areas and the loss of agricultural land, often lead to a shift from natural hazard to risk as a result of increased settlement in flood and landslide-risk areas (see  Chap. 7). Against a background of risk in the form of flooding, landslides and earthquakes, the principal deficits are highlighted, e.g., the lack, in planning institutions, of a systematic understanding of risk within the complex system of the region. There is also evidence of a disregard for vital aspects of vulnerability and a focus on technical adaptation measures, while at the same time neglecting long-term planning and risk prevention approaches. Consequently, an overall planning and management instrument, integrating different sectoral approaches and environmental targets more clearly into decision-making processes, is noted as an urgent requirement.

Over the past two decades, the field of transportation has primarily – due to changing life styles and the land-use changes mentioned above – been characterized by a modal split, expressed in a greater use of private rather than public transport, and by a substantial increase in urban highway infrastructure. The primary risks associated with transportation are high congestion levels, unreliability of and limited access to public transport, health impairments resulting from air pollution, and deaths or injuries due to traffic accidents. The expert and decision-maker based proposal of a package of political measures to tackle these problems includes investments in higher bus frequencies and new metro lines, a congestion charge in central areas of Santiago, and a demand-side separation of time. However, implementation would require the relevant political will to alter previous approaches in the attempt to meet certain set goals.

The performance in the energy sector primarily focuses on the national level and is characterized – similar to many industrialized countries – by a rapid growth of energy demand and a high dependency on fossil fuels, in the case of natural gas, which until recently was imported principally from Argentina. At the same time, Chile – and thus the Metropolitan Region to a certain extent – holds a large potential for renewable energy resources. So far this has only been used for electricity production (hydropower-based to 50%). While the current performance for some indicators is positive, e.g., increased access of households to electricity supplies and low system interruption, other indicators, e.g., energy intensity or the share of renewables in total energy production, remain distant from reasonable sustainability targets. Despite the fact that Chile has already taken steps towards a more sustainable energy system, substantial political support will be necessary to deepen this process, particularly if projected economic growth and population development are considered. The focus here is on improving energy efficiency and increasing the share of renewables, both of which require perseverance along the existing path, with further price-related measures and standard-oriented regulation.

The water system is characterized institutionally by the fact that Chile is the only country worldwide with a wholly privatized water sector. With respect to water services, i.e., to access or connection to drinking water, and to sewage infrastructure and hygienic standards, the current performance of the Metropolitan Region can be seen as positive, keeping in mind international comparisons and national targets. A major deficit is urban storm water management, pointing to the need to install new storm water sewers. Nevertheless, the range of water consumption per capita varies dramatically between households and, considering watershed capacities, exceeds sustainable levels for many consumers. Given that approximately 75% of fresh water is used in agriculture beyond the Metropolitan Area, the core challenge will be the shift in water resource management within the catchment area. Possible approaches include maintaining water for longer in the catchment, e.g., by dams, exploiting new water resources, or increasing water use efficiency. This challenge will gain momentum once projections regarding reduced water availability in the future due to climate change are factored into the equation.

A look at the performance of the waste management sector, including generation, composition, collection, treatment and disposal of waste, shows that the continuous increase in municipal solid waste volumes is the key issue. Solid waste management in the Metropolitan Region consists predominantly of final disposal in sanitary landfills, whereas recycling levels are low and essentially based on informal worker activities. There are few alternative treatment activities in place. The most urgent problem is that almost none of the waste sent to the landfills is pre-treated, leading, for instance, to long-term landfill gas emissions. Separate collection and treatment or use of a major share of the organic fraction of solid waste seems a suitable measure to substantially reduce these emissions.

Health impairments caused by air pollutants pose major problems and risks to people living in the Metropolitan Region, as in most urban agglomerations, depending among other factors on individual vulnerability criteria such as age, health condition and location. In Santiago, these problems are associated with transportation, and industrial and household emissions, due for the most part to energy use. Besides an appropriate selection of indicators, the availability and assessment of suitable data for the relevant mobile, stationary and area emission sources pose the toughest challenge. So far, the analysis of combined air pollution and epidemiological models indicates a significant increase, albeit socio-spatially differentiated, in the mortality risk for cardio-respiratory diseases as a result of current and projected PM10 concentrations. They also point to the political and technical measures required to reduce this threat, concentrating on the transportation and household sectors.

Finally there is the field of socio-spatial differentiation processes, which have a long tradition in Santiago and frequently end in segregation as a phenomenon of social inequality. Caused by drivers such as demography, immigration and intra-urban migration, land markets and property prices, on the one hand, and public welfare policies such as subsidies and housing, and land-use planning instruments, on the other, socio-spatial differentiation processes have led to socio-economic concentration and diversification, as well as social inclusion and exclusion tendencies in the peripheral municipalities. At the same time, the city centre is characterized by a gentrification trend, mainly brought about by the immigration of young people, accompanied by the growing attractiveness of more peripheral areas for higher income group settlement. The challenge here is to design housing, land and other policy and planning frameworks in such a way that they will balance social diversification and proximity, and create a social environment that produces greater social cohesion and less segregation and exclusion in order to tackle some of the problems mentioned above in Sect. 14.3.

14.5 Reflections on Sustainability Indicator Design and Application

Against this background of indicator-based sustainability analyses carried out for the Santiago Metropolitan Region and as a conclusion to this chapter, several analytical and strategic remarks are presented.

The precondition for sustainability analysis is absolute clarity about the conceptual and methodological approach, and about the basic objective of the work and its recipients. This includes answering questions, for instance, associated with the structure and thematic focus of the indicator set used, or with the form and intensity of stakeholder involvement in the process. In the work presented here, decisions were made to apply a limited and operable set of indicators, focusing on selection criteria such as the availability of suitable data.

The findings show a mix of sustainability performance strengths and weaknesses for Santiago. This is not, in itself, surprising. It does, however, contribute to the debate on the kinds of indicators to be included in an appropriate metropolitan sustainability indicator set. One important argument emphasizes the need to focus on indicators that depict and reveal existing deficits, pointing to a need for action. Clarity about the actors who should be taking these actions is likewise vital. The work presented here aimed to provide input into the scientific debate on mega-urban development and orientation for political and societal decision-makers. By presenting both positive and negative urban tendencies, the complexity of urban systems becomes apparent, as do the difficulties facing the politicians and other actors involved. Rather than trade-offs between the two tendencies, however, the goal should be to seek ‘win-win’ outcomes as effectively as possible, whereby improved welfare outcomes are realized with a reduced impact on the resource base and environmental quality. The incorporation of a broad range of actors in the project from the outset sought to enhance societal reflection and ensure the legitimization of project findings as far as possible.

The indicator analyses also reveal that a variety of processes are at work within the socio-ecological system that is the Metropolitan Region. Improvements in criteria of a more social nature are not matched with protection of ecological resources, although this is mostly due to a lack of cross-sectoral thinking and planning aimed at more ‘win-win’ approaches and solutions. Furthermore, there are structural constraints in terms of how to move beyond a situation with significant levels of social injustice, e.g., access to quality housing, health, education, green space. While the basic needs agenda has been engaged with effectively, such as poverty levels and infant mortality, the principal challenges to be faced lie in this transition to an industrialized, middle-class society that can still generate more equitable development and a greater degree of environmental quality and ecological service provision in the process.

With respect to methodology, three crucial issues or challenges for future analysis with indicators should be highlighted: firstly, it would be more revealing to differentiate the data for a number of indicators even further, e.g., by socio-economic criteria, gender or spatial scales. This has not been possible to date due to time and resource constraints but could provide valuable information about distribution patterns and help to design political measures that are more reflexive in this respect. Secondly, differing spatial scales of indicator analysis were used by the various working groups, focusing on the so-called Metropolitan Area of 34 municipalities, on the enlarged area of 38 municipalities, on a so-called Greater Metropolitan Area of 39 municipalities, or on the entire Metropolitan Region of 52 municipalities. Although all decisions were based on comprehensible motivation and justification, the outcome was an inevitable limit on the comparability of results and a degree of confusion, at least of observers external to the project. Here the objective of further research should be to use common spatial scales where possible. Thirdly, in many cases interdependencies between indicators in terms of cause-impact relations were identified but not analysed further. Hence, systematic so-called cross-impact analysis is called for if such links are to be detected and information is to be provided for the design of measures that fully consider them.

All of the above points to the need for more data and more data quality. However, a common difficulty for most of the thematic fields was the lack of suitable data for the Metropolitan Region or smaller scales. Here, continuous efforts at data collection, interpretation and access are required of official statistical institutions, as well as of political decision-makers, assumed to be one of the principal user groups.

Santiago de Chile, not unlike other cases, has generic topics or challenges and those that are more specific. It is precisely the definition of these challenges, their prioritization, the evaluation of the current ‘performance’ (or diagnosis) of urban development, and a look at the future through scenario constructions that offer a way forward in the praxis of sustainable development. The identification of water, energy, segregation and the existing complex, multi-level and multi-actor governance regime as core priorities in assessing future options, and an understanding of the synergies between them that transcend mainstream sectoral ‘solutions’ is the essence of what sustainable development analysis can offer to urban planning, urban policy and decision-making at multiple scales.

Rather than a binary division between sustainable and unsustainable city regions, the task is to identify degrees of sustainability and of sustainability potential, and to strengthen sustainable development processes accordingly in each case. This requires a framework that suggests transparency in conceptual and analytical terms as a minimum condition. As a paradigm for urban development, the renaissance of sustainability thinking presents multidisciplinary challenges, however, to urban managers, urban representatives, and civil society organizations and firms in terms of complexity, of inter- and intragenerational justice, and not least of increased participation. There is no easy solution to managing or responding to these dimensions. Instead, complexity is accepted as inherent to city regions as a consequence of overcoming limited, short-term reductionist ‘solutions’ that have characterized city planning in recent decades.

Referring to the aforementioned political consultancy perspective of the analyses, most of the indicators outlined above were included on a list prepared for the Regional Government (GORE) as input into the decision process of selecting indicators for a metropolitan sustainable development strategy. In this sense, the findings of the indicator analyses, including target values and appropriate target performance comparisons, form the basis for a comprehensive overview of Santiago Metropolitan Region sustainability performance trends, the aim of which is to stabilize or enhance positive trends and to mitigate those that are negative. This will be carried out in the future in close collaboration with the GORE planning division, as the lead agency for the current designing of a new Regional Development Strategy, the flagship instrument for strategic planning.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jürgen Kopfmüller
    • 1
  • Jonathan R. Barton
    • 1
  • Alejandra Salas
    • 1
  1. 1.Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)Eggenstein-LeopoldshafenGermany

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