491 Topic 14 – Strategic Environmental Assessment

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Topic 14 – Strategic Environmental Training session outline Assessment Objective To gain an understanding of: ã the rationale and objectives of Strategic…

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Topic 14 – Strategic Environmental Training session outline Assessment Objective To gain an understanding of: ã the rationale and objectives of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA); ã the institutional arrangements that are in place to undertake SEA; ã the scope of application of SEA in relation to levels and types of decision-making; ã key principles of SEA and elements of good practice; and ã the procedures and methods that are used to carry out this process. Relevance The introduction of SEA extends the aims and principles of EIA upstream to the higher, pre-project level of decision-making. It affords an important new means of analysing and addressing the environmental effects of policies, plans, programmes and other proposed strategic actions. All those involved in EIA practice should have an understanding of SEA – what it is, why it has emerged and how it contributes to informed decision-making in support of environmental protection and sustainable development. Timing Note: This Topic is in two parts each of two-hours (not including training activity). Important note to trainers Topic 14 Presentation of this topic should be tailored to Strategic participants' interests and their involvement at policy making levels. The relevance of some sections of the Environmental materials will depend on how widely SEA has been Assessment accepted and whether or not there is institutional support locally or in the region. EIA Training Resource Manual u Second edition 2002 491 Training session outline þ Information checklist SEA is not as widely practised as project EIA, and therefore some of the resources listed below may not be readily available. Nevertheless, it will be helpful to obtain or develop the following, as appropriate: q details of recent or proposed policies, plans or laws that could result in significant environmental effects and that might be subject to an SEA; q background information on the operation of strategic decision- making processes (e.g. related to policies, plans and programmes); q any examples of SEA or equivalent processes that have been applied locally; q other reports or studies on or relevant to the environmental effects of policies, programmes or plans, for example: – state of the environment reports – national sustainable development plans – environmental or sustainability indicators; q contact names and telephone numbers of people, agencies, organisations and environmental information data resource centres able to provide assistance with SEA; and q other resources that may be available such as courses in specific analytical or methodological techniques, videos, journal articles, computer programmes, lists of speakers, and case studies. 492 EIA Training Resource Manual u Second edition 2002 Session outline Training session outline Note: This session has been divided into two parts. Part 1 is intended to provide an introduction to SEA concepts and principles. Part 2 is intended for those participants who require further information on different forms of SEA and elements of procedure, methods and practice. By completing both parts trainers can provide a comprehensive overview of the subject. Topic 14 Part 1 Welcome the participants to the session by introducing yourself and getting them to introduce themselves. Outline the overall coverage of the session, its objectives and why they are important. This topic introduces the concept and practice of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), and places it within a broad, comparative framework. Although relatively new, there is increasing recognition of the importance of SEA as a tool for analysing and addressing the environmental effects of policy, plans, programmes and other proposed strategic actions. In comparison to EIA, the nature and scope of SEA processes are characterised by greater diversity, and this point needs to be emphasised when considering their potential application to levels and types of decision-making that are relevant locally. Briefly introduce the concept of SEA. Note that it can be variously defined and understood. Ask the participants to adopt or adapt a definition that best meets the local situation and requirements. The term Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is variously defined and understood. It refers here to a formal process of systematic analysis of the 1 environmental effects of development policies, plans, programmes and other proposed strategic actions. This process extends the aims and principles of EIA upstream in the decision-making process, beyond the project level and when major alternatives are still open. SEA represents a proactive approach to integrating environmental considerations into the higher levels of decision making, consistent with the principles outlined in Agenda 21. Often, broader, less detailed assessments are required at these levels compared to project EIA. A comparison of these and other key characteristics of EIA and SEA can be found in Box 1. Both processes have common elements, but increasing modification to procedure and methodology are necessary when moving from the project to the policy level. Topic 14 To date, only a relatively small number of countries and international organisations have made formal provision for SEA. These frameworks vary, Strategic sometimes substantially, and indicate the flexible adaptation of SEA to different Environmental levels and types of decision-making. As presently institutionalised, SEA is a multi-stage process that encompasses a spectrum of approaches and diverse Assessment EIA Training Resource Manual u Second edition 2002 493 Training session outline arrangements, procedures and methods. These include EIA-based environmental appraisal and integrated policy and planning systems, and range in emphasis from assessing the impact of implementing a policy or plan to applying SEA iteratively to build environmental aspects throughout the formulation of a proposed approach. Despite taking different forms, SEA systems have a common purpose: to take account of environmental concerns in policy and planning decision-making, thereby contributing to sustainable development. However, there are varying interpretations of the role, scope and process of SEA; for example with regard to substantive aims, contribution to environmental protection and sustainable development, inclusion of economic and social factors, and minimum legal and procedural requirements. These issues are reflected in the menu of definitions of SEA outlined in the Annex to this topic, which can be reviewed to identify aspects that are relevant to a given country. Box 1: Some comparisons between EIA and SEA EIA of projects SEA of policy, plans and programmes Takes place at end of decision-making cycle Takes place at earlier stages of decision- making cycle Reactive approach to development proposal Pro-active approach to development proposals Identifies specific impacts on the Also identifies environmental environment implications, issues of sustainable development Considers limited number of feasible Considers broad range of potential alternatives alternatives Limited review of cumulative effects Early warning of cumulative effects Emphasis on mitigating and minimising Emphasis on meeting environmental impacts objectives, maintaining natural systems Narrow perspective, high level of detail Broad perspective, lower level of detail to provide a vision and overall framework Well-defined process, clear beginning and Multi-stage process, overlapping end components, policy level is continuing, iterative Focuses on standard agenda, treats Focuses on sustainability agenda, gets at symptoms of environmental deterioration sources of environmental deterioration Source: amended from CSIR (1996) 494 EIA Training Resource Manual u Second edition 2002 Training session outline Outline the rationale and aims of SEA, and indicate the benefits that might be expected from the implementation of this process in a given country using information gained in the training needs analysis (Topic C). Ask participants to contribute to this review. The premise of SEA can be simply stated: EIA on its own is not enough. Only a relatively small proportion of the proposals and decisions made by governments are subject to examination. SEA rounds out and scales up the coverage from projects to include policy, plans, programmes and other proposed strategic actions with potentially important environmental effects. 2 This process gets at the sources of environmental impacts, rather than treating only the symptoms in relation to specific projects (as identified in Box 1). By doing so, SEA responds to what the Brundtland Commission called 'the chief institutional challenge of the 1990s'. From this perspective, SEA facilitates informed and integrated decision-making through the provision of environmental information at the same time and on par with social and economic aspects. The introduction of SEA has been driven by both procedural and substantive trends and imperatives (see Box 2). Often called the bottom-up and top-down strategies, these are aimed at: ã reinforcing project-level EIA; and ã promoting environmentally sound and sustainable development. Despite its wide use and acceptance, project EIA has acknowledged shortcomings as a tool for minimising environmental effects of development proposals. It takes place relatively late at the downstream end of the decision- making process, after major alternatives and directions have been chosen. Normally at this stage, the issues have narrowed to how a project should be implemented environmentally, rather than whether, where and what form of development is environmentally appropriate. By addressing these issues upstream in the decision-making process, SEA can help to focus and streamline EIA of any subsequent projects. More optimally, SEA is a proactive tool to anticipate and prevent environmental damage caused by sector policies and plans enacted by development agencies. A key objective is to provide early warning of large scale and cumulative effects, including those resulting from many smaller-scale actions that otherwise would fall under thresholds for triggering a project EIA. For example, an SEA of a land use plan can take account of biodiversity losses associated with proposed developments, or an SEA of a national road building programme can address the implications for climate warming of increased CO2 emissions in light of commitments under the Kyoto protocol and against other transport alternatives. Other potential policy and institutional benefits can be gained from the use of SEA as indicated in Box 3. These derive from but extend beyond the gains that Topic 14 occur when the main aims of SEA are achieved. They centre on changes to the Strategic culture of decision-making that are thought to accompany what the World Bank refers to as ‘mainstreaming’ the environment, i.e., making it part of the mandate Environmental and operation of economic agencies. Such changes are expected to be long term Assessment EIA Training Resource Manual u Second edition 2002 495 Training session outline and gradual, but some could be instituted sooner (e.g. meeting obligations of a country under the conventions on biodiversity and climate warming). Box 2: Aims and objectives of SEA To support informed and integrated decision-making by: 3 ã identifying environmental effects of proposed actions ã considering alternatives, including the best practicable environmental option ã specifying appropriate mitigation measures To contribute to environmentally sustainable development by: ã anticipating and preventing environmental impacts at source ã early warning of cumulative effects and global risks ã establishing safeguards based on principles of sustainable development To reinforce project EIA by: ã prior identification of scope of potential impacts and information needs ã addressing strategic issues and considerations related to justification of proposals ã reducing the time and effort necessary to conduct individual reviews Source: amended from Sadler and Brook, 1998. Box 3: Some wider potential policy and institutional benefits from use of SEA 4 ã mainstreaming environmental objectives ã incorporating sustainability principles into policy-making ã meeting obligations under international environmental agreements ã ‘sustainability assurance’ for development proposals and options ã instituting environmental accountability in sector-specific agencies ã greater transparency and openness in decision-making Briefly trace the background, evolution and current status of SEA, noting relevant local trends and developments. Ask participants to help identify these. 2 14–1 SEA trends and developments can be placed in the broader context of EIA history (see Topic 1–Introduction and overview of EIA). Key legal and policy milestones are listed in Handout 14-1. In broad outline, the path of SEA development can be divided into two main phases with a third one imminent. These have been called: ã the formative stage – from 1970 to 1989; 496 EIA Training Resource Manual u Second edition 2002 ã the formalisation stage – from 1990 to 2000; and Training session outline ã the extension stage – 2001 onward. During the formative stage, certain legal and policy precedents for SEA were 5 established by the introduction and early implementation of EIA. The US National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA, 1969) was intended to apply to 'legislation and other major actions'. For much of this period, however, its scope of application beyond the project level was limited, primarily focused on programmes. In a few other countries, elements of SEA were recognisable in certain EIA processes, for example public inquiries and environmental reviews conducted in Australia and Canada. By the end of the 1980s, other countries and international organisations had begun to make some provision for SEA (see Handout 14-1). During the formalisation stage, SEA systems were established by an increasing number of countries in response to Agenda 21 and other policy statements on sustainable development. These systems were and still are relatively diversified. Some countries made provision for SEA of policy, plans and programmes separately from EIA legislation and procedure (e.g. Canada, Denmark). Other countries have introduced SEA requirements through environmental appraisal (e.g. UK), in reforms to EIA legislation (e.g. Czech Republic, Slovakia) or as part of resource management or biodiversity conservation regimes (e.g. New Zealand, Australia). Certain lending and development programmes financed by the World Bank became subject to sectoral and regional environmental assessment (EA). An extension stage is set to begin, marked by the widespread adoption and further consolidation of SEA. Key driving forces will be the transposition of the recently concluded European Directive on SEA by member states (to enter into force in 2004) and later by accession countries; and the negotiation of an SEA Protocol to the UNECE Convention on Transboundary EIA by signatory countries (with a provisional date of May 2003 for completion). These and other international legal and policy developments (discussed later) indicate a possible tripling of the number of countries that make provision for SEA over the next decade. Discuss the scope of application of SEA to different levels of decision- making, including policy, plans and programmes. Ask the group to identify proposed actions that are subject to some form of SEA already or that could benefit from the application of this process. In principle, SEA can apply to a wide range of proposed actions above the project level. The scope of SEA application and relationship to different levels and types of development decision-making are depicted in Figure 1. It illustrates SEA as a multi-stage process that encompasses policy, plans and programmes (and, in certain jurisdictions, legislative bills and other instruments). These Topic 14 terms mean different things in different countries (see Box 4), and the scope of application of SEA will be defined by what is Strategic understood to be a policy, plan or programme within a particular jurisdiction. Environmental An indicative list of areas covered already by some form of SEA can be found in Assessment EIA Training Resource Manual u Second edition 2002 497 Training session outline Box 5. Most attention is given to proposed actions in specific sectors that are known or likely to have significant environmental effects. Examples include energy, transportation and industrial development. Other areas commonly subject to SEA include spatial plans, regional development programmes and resource management strategies. As a rule of thumb, candidate areas for SEA include strategic proposals that concern or affect use of land and natural resources, extraction of raw materials, production of chemicals and other hazardous products, and/or the generation of pollutants, wastes and residuals. These areas continue to be extended. In practice, the scope of application of SEA is incomplete and highly variable, both across jurisdictions and in relation to areas and processes of decision- making. So far, few if any countries or international organisations have a comprehensive SEA system in place, one that applies to all strategic actions likely to have significant environmental effects. Most commonly, SEA is applied at the level of development plans and programmes. Policy level applications are less common, but arguably even more important for levering a change in direction toward environmental protection and sustainable development. Generally, policies are understood to stand at the apex of a decision-making hierarchy, and guide or set a context for plans and programmes (see Figure 1). An integrated framework may be represented as a logical sequence of proposed actions and linkages. Policies lead to plans and programmes, both sectoral and spatial (e.g. land use plans), some of which, in turn, initiate and fix the location of specific projects and activities. Where this arrangement is in place, it permits a tiered approach to SEA and EIA, in which each stage sets up the next as part of a rolling review of policy, plan and project development. In many countries, however, this idealised framework may be absent, fragmentary or approximated only partially. More likely, many aspects of policy, plan and programme development will be incremental rather than systematic. How this process operates needs to be understood in order to apply SEA successfully in a given country. In turn, policy, plan and programme development will reflect the prevailing 'political culture', the rules and norms by which decisions are made. Where SEA is not yet in place or is incomplete, a country may introduce SEA independently or in response to the requirements of multi-lateral financial institutions (see below). In either case, 'mapping' the types and process of decision-making in sectors known to have environmental effects can be instructive. This schematic outline can indicate how SEA might be linked and adapted to the prevailing structure of decision-making, or its role extended. For this exercise, use may be made of materials gathered from the Training Needs Assessment, as well as drawing on the local knowledge of participants. 498 EIA Training Resource Manual u Second edition 2002 Nat ional Su sta inabl e D evelopme nt S trate gi es Training session outline Macr o- econo mi c Gre en P lan s, Fi sca l & T rade B iodiversi ty Po li cy P oli c y S t rategi es S EA __________________ Sect or P lan an d D eve lopment Sp atia l & L a nd S trategi es P ro g r am m e U se Pl ans S EA Sect oral Regional P ro jec t EI A Source: Sadler ( 1994) Figure 1: SEA in relationship to other decision-making processes Box 4: A generic definition of policies, plans and programmes Often there is no clear distinction between what constitutes a policy, plan or
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