It may be coincidence, but the latest annual report on the sustainable development strategy, published in March, showed that progress on the economic and social fronts was considerably superior to that on the environment.
The Government uses 15 headline indicators to measure the strategy's progress. Four of these have two components each, so there are in effect 19 indicators. Ten of these 19 are environmental.
According to the Government's "traffic light" summary, four indicators are currently at red, of which three are environmental. Another five are at amber, of which another three are environmental. So six of the nine indicators on which there has either been no progress or a significant decline since 1999 are environmental.
Ten indicators are at green. Only four of these are environmental - and for three of these the trend was already going the right way well before the strategy took effect.
An alternative way of looking at the trend since the strategy would put it in a less flattering light. In 1999, emissions of carbon dioxide amounted to 151.1 million tonnes (as carbon). They have increased in three of the four years since then, and amounted to 152.3 million tonnes in 2003 (ENDS Report 351, pp 11-12 ).
The red light reflects the impact of last year's hot summer and other pollution episodes which caused the number of days with moderate or worse urban air pollution to increase to 50, compared with 20 in 2002. The number of rural air pollution days was the highest since the data series began in 1987, rising from 30 days per monitoring site in 2002 to 63 last year.
The picture is certainly not one to warrant complacency. Whether the current indicators say very much about the UK's sustainability "gap" is another issue altogether.