Handbook of Strategic Environmental Assessment
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Handbook of Strategic Environmental Assessment

Barry Sadler, Jiri Dusik, Thomas Fischer, Maria Partidario, Rob Verheem, Ralf Aschemann, Barry Sadler, Jiri Dusik, Thomas Fischer, Maria Partidario, Rob Verheem, Ralf Aschemann

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eBook - ePub

Handbook of Strategic Environmental Assessment

Barry Sadler, Jiri Dusik, Thomas Fischer, Maria Partidario, Rob Verheem, Ralf Aschemann, Barry Sadler, Jiri Dusik, Thomas Fischer, Maria Partidario, Rob Verheem, Ralf Aschemann

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About This Book

This authoritative handbook surveys the full breadth and depth of SEA, bringing together a range of international perspectives and insights on the theoretical, methodological and institutional dimensions and practical issues of the field. It then subjects this conventional wisdom to a critical reappraisal, looks at the vast lessons of experience and offers new ideas and interpretations as to where the field is going.The volume is organized into six major sections, beginning with an introduction and overview of the development of the field and a framework for evaluating SEA good practice. Part I comprises a review of SEA frameworks in leading countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA), the European Union and developing regions (Africa, Asia, Latin America and Newly Independent States). Part II reviews SEA practice in several major sectors (energy, minerals, transport, water, development assistance and coastal zone management). Part III addresses the linkages between SEA and other comparable tools such as spatial planning and environmental management. Part IV probes key cross-cutting issues in SEA, including how to address cumulative and trans-boundary effects. Part V identifies ways and means of SEA process and capacity development, focusing on how to improve and upgrade the theory and practice of the field. Part VI examines the shift from conventional SEA towards more integrative approaches, drawing on experience and examples from a number of countries.Published with IAIA

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Taking Stock of SEA

Barry Sadler
Strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is undertaken, both formally and informally, in an increasing number of countries and international organizations. This field has developed rapidly in the past decade and is now the subject of a voluminous literature, which continues to grow apace with the extension and diversification of SEA practice into new areas. Much of the emphasis still focuses on what might be termed the standard model based on environmental impact assessment (EIA), enshrined in the European SEA Directive (2001/42/EC) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) SEA Protocol (2003). Internationally, however, this is only one of a number of forms of SEA that are applied to policy, and planning level initiatives and further variants and institution-specific adaptations, often with their own brand name, are being rolled out all the time, particularly in relation to lending and aid instruments used by donor agencies. These trends, in pushing the boundaries of SEA practice, expose new and residual issues about its role, theory and methodology.
This handbook is intended to provide a state-of-the-field review of SEA, bringing together a wide range of perspectives that both frame and focus the ongoing discourse on its role and contribution to decision-making. It has three interrelated objectives: to take stock of international experience with SEA; to highlight key aspects and areas of process development and application; and to probe issues related to the quality and effectiveness of SEA practice. Collectively, the chapters that follow provide a comprehensive, thematic survey of the dimensions and dynamics of the field. They document the multifaceted, cross-sectoral nature of SEA activity, the variety of institutional and policy contexts within which it is undertaken and the emerging linkages to other assessment, planning and decision-making instruments. Individually, the contributors take stock of SEA trends and issues through their own particular lens on the field, reflecting nuanced interpretations of the conventional wisdom and, in some cases, trenchant critiques of prevailing concepts and underlying assumptions.
This chapter provides an introduction to the handbook. It begins with a brief primer on the basic characteristics of the SEA process. Next, there is an overview of the background and structure of the book. A review of the main themes and chapter highlights follows. Such an upfront synthesis of the key messages of the book seemed the best way to introduce readers to a large body of information organized into 35 chapters written by nearly 50 contributors. In addition, more detailed thematic overviews have been prepared by their respective editors for certain sections that were considered to need greater definition, namely the linkages of SEA to other tools that are applied to similar purpose (Fischer) and SEA capacity development (Partidário). For other sections, readers may want to refer back to this chapter.

A brief profile of SEA

At base, SEA is a simple and straightforward concept, although perhaps deceptively so given the massive body of commentary and qualification that can be found in the critical literature of the field and in many of the pages in this book. Before starting down this ever widening road with its many branches and diversions (and the odd blind alley), it may be helpful to briefly identify the departure point, represented by some key dimensions of the SEA process that are more or less commonly understood and often drawn on in answering basic questions such as what is SEA, why is it important and how is it related to decision-making? In this section, these elements are taken to include the premise and purpose of SEA and the core precepts of application, leaving it to the next and subsequent chapters to discuss their elaboration and argumentation.
Broadly stated, the rationale of SEA is to ensure that environmental considerations are taken into account and inform higher levels of decision-making, including policies, plans and programmes (terms which mean different things in different contexts). The introduction of SEA has been an integral part of the development of EIA (although this is not the only evolutionary source) and, from that perspective, it responds partly to the limitations of EIA as traditionally applied only or largely to projects and specific actions. By excluding public policy and plan-making from examination, EIA on its own manifestly did not cover the range of government initiatives that matter environmentally. SEA rounds out and scales up the scope of review to the tier of development proposals above the project level, most importantly to genuinely strategic, agenda and direction setting decisions that shape the trajectory of economic growth with potentially significant implications for the use of land, resources and ecosystems. In that context, SEA can be applied to positive purpose as a means of promoting environmentally sound and sustainable development, shifting from a ‘do least harm’ to a ‘do most good’ approach.
This shift also reflects a hierarchy of aims of SEA, corresponding to progressively deeper levels of environmental integration in policy and plan-making, which may be represented as a transition from pale to dark green. In moving from one to the other, the progression of aims is more difficult to accomplish. A commonly accepted objective of SEA is to analyse and evaluate the potentially significant effects of a proposed initiative on the environment in order to support informed decision-making. Some commentators approximate SEA to this role of information-conveying and decision-assisting, emphasizing that environmental effects form only part of the broad mix of considerations addressed in policy and plan-making. By itself, however, this objective correlates with a relatively shallow (pale green) level of environmental integration (although potentially acting as a vector for long-term value change). Other commentators go beyond this minimalist stance and consider SEA should be undertaken to deliver more substantive objectives of contributing to environmental protection and sustainable development (variously cited in SEA legislation). If taken at face value, these aims (which are interrelated but not the same) reflect a deeper (dark green) and more challenging level of environmental integration.
Within any jurisdiction, a relatively standardized process typically is applied to meet the objectives enshrined in law or policy, for example, as exemplified in Directive 2001/42/EC. This approach varies institutionally and methodologically across the extended family of SEA procedures and diagnostic tools but there is broad agreement on certain characteristics or principles that are common or defining. For example, as a generic process, SEA is understood to be a systematic, proactive approach to analysing the potential environmental consequences of a proposed policy, plan or programme in order to ensure they are considered in decision-making. It is undertaken as an integral part of this process, beginning at an early phase of proposal formulation and identification of alternative courses of action. The SEA process itself follows a number of well-known steps that are organized sequentially, undertaken iteratively, tailored to purpose and thus carried out in full or in part. Commonplace elements of approach include consulting stakeholders, identifying likely environmental effects, evaluating their significance, determining measures to mitigate adverse impacts or enhance positive ones and reporting the findings to decision-makers. In addition, there are widely accepted principles of SEA good practice that are discussed in the next chapter and elsewhere in this volume.

Background and structure of the volume

In the last decade, the SEA literature has grown enormously and frequent conferences and workshops continue to be held on the subject. Despite considerable progress, there is a range of outstanding issues related to SEA process, practice and performance, including deep-rooted concerns and questions regarding the extent to which SEA achieves its aims, contributes to decision-making or leads toward positive outcomes. These matters have been a long-standing subject of critical evaluation and, more recently and particularly, have focused on the role and potential of SEA in facilitating sustainable development, moving along the spectrum from environmentally-specific to integrative approaches.
For more than a decade, annual meetings of the International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) have provided a forum for discussing these and related issues and collectively have contributed in no small measure to advancing the larger agenda of SEA theory and practice. In 2005 in Prague, IAIA held its first theme-specific conference additional to annual meetings to review progress with SEA. The intent was to hold an interactive forum covering key aspects and areas of the field. Although variously modified, all the chapters in this book are based on keynote papers or other materials prepared for the Prague conference (widely cited in the pages that follow). In that context, as many contributors note, they have drawn upon and benefited from the information and perspectives in supplementary papers and working discussions that took place at their specific topic sessions. The chapters of this book thus reflect, to varying degrees, some distillation of expert opinion as well as information from the usual sources.
The book is organized into six main parts, prefaced by this introduction. Part I covers the SEA systems that are in place in specific countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US), in developing regions (Africa, Asia, Latin America and Newly Independent States), within the European Union (EU) and under the UNECE SEA Protocol to the Espoo Convention on EIA in a Transboundary Context. The focus of Part II is on SEA practice in selected sectors (extractive industries, transport, water and coastal zone management) and the application of indicators in these and other areas. In Part III, the emphasis is on the use and linkages of SEA to other related fields and instruments (environmental management, spatial planning, landscape planning, biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction strategies). Part IV deals with cross-cutting issues in SEA (tiering, public participation and addressing health, cumulative effects and transboundary considerations, respectively). The concern in Part V is with ways and means of SEA process and capacity development (theory and research, knowledge building, guidance, follow-up, organizational strengthening and professional and institutional capacitybuilding). In Part VI, the focus is on sustainability assessment or appraisal and the relationship to SEA and EIA (theoretical frameworks and case applications). As the next section draws out, the boundaries between the above sections are arbitrarily drawn and there are many overlaps among the themes and subjects discussed in this book.

Part I: SEA frameworks and their implementation

In this section, the focus is on SEA legal and institutional frameworks and experience with their implementation in selected countries and regions including the EU. Within any jurisdiction, these arrangements constitute the foundations of the SEA regime and can be thought of as enabling conditions of good practice. As the chapters in this section attest, in the last decade especially, SEA legal and procedural developments have been considerable and extensive, reaching a critical mass that represents international take off. The European Directive (2001/42/EC) and its subsequent transposition into national law by 27 member states was a major impetus in that regard, approximately doubling the number of countries that then had provision for SEA. The conclusion of the UNECE SEA Protocol (signed by 35 countries and the EU at Kiev 2003) has added further momentum to this trend, although at the time of writing it had yet to come into force. However, as illustrated by the experience of a number of countries, SEA frameworks are one thing and their implementation is another matter again.
Australia: Ashe and Marsden describe the range of federal and state legislation under which SEA is carried out in Australia, where SEA experience dates back more than 30 years. At the national level, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999) provides for discretionary (general) and mandatory (fisheries specific) application of SEA. Limited use of SEA has been made for general purposes to date but Ashe and Marsden consider its application to marine fisheries management plans has been highly successful, resulting in the certification of some 120 plans as ecologically sustainable (which, at first glance, appears to be an exemplary approach with few peers internationally). They also describe other SEA arrangements and elements that are applied federally or in different states (where development is reported to be uneven). Despite such progress, Ashe and Marsden conclude that SEA is still underutilized in Australia and see its future development as potentially converging with sustainability appraisal.
Canada: Sadler describes the SEA system established by the federal government under a Cabinet Directive (introduced 1990, various amendments). Nationally, this system has no strictly comparable provincial or territorial counterparts and, internationally, it may be of interest as the first of the ‘new generation’ of SEA frameworks established separately from EIA. As set out in the guidelines, the emphasis is on a flexible approach to SEA, tailored to the policy or planning circumstances of federal agencies and integrating environmental, economic and social considerations. This flexibility, as a series of evaluations and audits document, has a major downside, reflected in patchy compliance with the provisions of the Directive, basic weaknesses in process implementation and little or no monitoring of the consistency and quality of SEA practice. Despite several attempts at incremental reform, progress remains unsatisfactory and Sadler contends that, after nearly two decades, the Canadian SEA system has systemic failings that make it unfit for purpose. After more than 15 years of ineffective application, this system needs a radical overhaul.
New Zealand: Wilson and Ward describe the SEA-type arrangements that have been introduced in New Zealand under various provisions including legal frameworks such as the Resource Management Act (1991) and the Local Government Act (2002) or as elements of mandatory or ad hoc planning instruments such as, respectively, regional land transport strategies or urban growth strategies. SEA practice in New Zealand is said to typify an integrative approach that is seamlessly threaded or embedded in policy and plan-making, rather than separately named or delineated as such. In principle, Wilson and Ward consider this approach has considerable potential in terms of its scope and application, particularly as a sustainability instrument. In practice, however, they argue that too much is left to planners and analysts who lack the knowledge, tools and resources for the task and the absence of specific provision and formal requirements for SEA is becoming increasingly problematic. Building the skills base will help but the authors conclude that legal and institutional reforms may ultimately be needed to bolster the current integrative approach.
The US: Clark, Mahoney and Pierce describe SEA procedure and practice under the 1969 US National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA regulations apply to all major actions proposed by federal agencies but, in practice, policies, plans and programmes go largely unexamined. Specifically, Clark et al note that only a ‘handful’ of programmatic environmental impact statements (PEIS), the main form of SEA implemented under NEPA, are completed each year. As their analysis suggests, the underuse of PEIS is deeply rooted in the institutional structure and political culture of decision-making within the US government and reinforced by recent legislative and regulatory developments, which have lessened NEPA requirements. Despite these trends, Clark et al present two innovative examples of SEA practice that illustrate business-case and ecosystem-based applications. They also dissect ten main challenges to the wider use of SEA in US policy-making (from poor understanding of the concept to disagreement about the merits of an integrative approach) and conclude that SEA must be flexibly adapted to the realities of decision-making, possibly through procedures outside those of NEPA.
Asian region: Hayashi, Song and Au describe the SEA systems and processes that have been introduced and implemented in the Asia region with a particular focus on east and southeast Asian countries where rapid changes are taking place. They underline the increasing recognition of SEA in this region and the diversity of approaches that have emerged in response to regional conditions and circumstances, such as variations in economic growth, political culture and institutional capacity. So far, SEA systems have been established in only a few countries or jurisdictions (for example, China, Hong Kong, South Korea and Vietnam) but more are in the process of doing so (for example, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand) or apply some form of SEA on a pilot or ad hoc basis (for example, Laos and Cambodia). Hayashi et al analyse SEA developments individually for this first group of countries (plus Japan) and comparatively for a larger group of east and southeast Asian countries, and distil key trends, issues and characteristics of SEA in this region. Despite increasing formalization of SEA in legislation, they conclude that many reservations and obstacles remain to be overcome and, among other things, call for greater regional cooperation and self-help.
Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA): Cherp, Martonakova, Jurkeviciute and Gachechiladze-Bozhesku review the development of SEA systems in the newly independent states of Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA). As former republics of the Soviet Union, these countries inherited a common machinery of centralized planning including EIA-type procedures that apply to project and strategic-level proposals. Cherp et al describe the evolution and reform of these so-called State Environmental Reviews (SER) and Assessment of Environmental Impacts (OVOS in the Russian abbreviation) systems and compare them to SEA frameworks and arrangements as internationally recognized. Their discussion highlights the persistence of SER/OVOS features with varying degrees of modification in the hybrid systems of SEA introduced in different EECCA countries, some relatively unchanged, others incorporating internationally accepted elements (for example, Moldova, Russia and Armenia). A profile of existing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that characterize SEA systems in the region indicates relatively slow progress towards meeting international standards and largely unfavourable trends in governance that hinder further improvements. In response, the authors call for a more discriminating, needs-focused approach to build SEA capacity in the EECCA region.
The EU: Sadler and Jurkeviciute profile the SEA systems of EU member states, focusing particularly on experience with the transposition and implementation of Directive 2001/42/EC. Long in the making, the SEA Directive covers certain plans and programmes and establishes the minimum procedural requirements that must be applied, including a number of member states that previously had made no provision for SEA. The authors note that initial progress in bringing the Directive into EU-wide force (post-2004) was uneven and slow and that questions remain about the compliance of legislation of some member states. In addition, Sadler and Jurkeviciute categorize the sizeable differences among member states in numbers of assessments being processed, relating them to underlying geopolitical divisions in approaches to governance. More tellingly, they enumerate emerging concerns about the state and quality of SEA practice, for example in undertaking key stages of the process such as determining scope and alternatives to be considered. At the same time, it is acknowledged that information on these issues is incomplete and, in that regard, much awaits the European Commission’s review of the implementation of the Directive.
Southern Africa: Audouin, Lochner and Tarr review the development of SEA in southern Africa and the socio-ecological and geopolitical contexts that have shaped its evolution. They underline the dependency of the rural poor on natural resources that are under increasing pressures and stresses from human activities and the post-colonial trends that slowed acceptance of the concepts of environmental governance and su...

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