Deciding on Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) for ICZM

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Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is not compulsory but it could be initiated early in the ICZM Process, more specifically when the Potential Vision is being prepared. SEA is a forward-looking tool and is being implemented in parallel with the planning, programming or policy definition process.

“Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is a systematic process for evaluating the environmental consequences of proposed policy, plan or programme initiatives in order to ensure that they are fully included and appropriately addressed at the earliest stage of decision-making, on a par with economic and social considerations.”(Evaluating Socio Economic Development, SOURCEBOOK 2: Methods & Techniques. Strategic environmental impact assessment. EU Regional Policy, INFOREGIO, 2009)

SEA operates at a strategic level, and stresses process rather than a detailed technical analysis. The nature of the tool, and the practical steps involved, vary from context to context. Importantly, SEA does not, in general, demand sophisticated and expensive data gathering and modelling capacity. The process that delivers the final product is important, with institutional cooperation and public participation being key determinants of success. The key message for an SEA applied to the process is: keep it simple, clear and transparent.

When is it required?

The legal requirement for an SEA for strategies, plans or programmes for coastal areas will vary from country to country and between local areas.

At the Establishment stage, therefore, an assessment should be made as to:

  1. The potential mandatory requirement for an SEA
  2. The desirability and potential added-value of an SEA

Article 19 of the ICZM Protocol calls for the application of Strategic Environmental Assessment to plans and programmes affecting the coastal zone. Arguably this may be applied to strategies for coastal areas as well.

  1. Taking into account the fragility of coastal zones, the Parties shall ensure that the process and related studies of environmental impact assessment for public and private projects likely to have significant environmental effects on the coastal zones, and in particular on their ecosystems, take into consideration the specific sensitivity of the environment and the inter-relationships between the marine and terrestrial parts of the coastal zone.
  2. In accordance with the same criteria, the Parties shall formulate, as appropriate, a strategic environmental assessment of plans and programmes affecting the coastal zone.
  3. The environmental assessments should take into consideration the cumulative impacts on the coastal zones, paying due attention, inter alia, to their carrying capacities.

Within the EU Member and Accession States the SEA Directive (2001/42/EC) requires that systematic environmental assessment be considered for plans and programmes prepared for agriculture, forestry, fisheries, energy, industry, transport, waste management, water management, telecommunications, tourism, town and country planning or land use and other activities, which set the framework for future development consent of projects listed in Annex I and II to the EIA Directive (85/337/EEC) or which, in view of the likely effect of sites, require an assessment under Article 6 or 7 of the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC).

Other (non-EU) states are likely to have, or are developing, SEA legislation.

The environmental authorities of the relevant state should therefore be consulted on the requirement for an SEA and its terms of reference.

Potential benefits of using SEA

Applying SEA may benefit both the preparation process and the implementation outcomes. It provides the environmental evidence to support more informed decision-making, and to identify new opportunities through a systematic and thorough examination of development options. SEA can also assist in building stakeholder engagement for improved governance, facilitate trans-boundary co-operation around shared environmental resources, and potentially contribute to conflict resolution over the use of shared resources.

Within ICZM, SEA may prove to be a useful tool to assess the conformity of short-term implementation proposals with longer-term issues and policies; particularly those relating to climate change where short-term actions may compromise or conflict with long-term adaptation.

Management of the SEA process

The EU SEA Directive stipulates that an SEA has to be carried out during the preparation of the strategy, plan or programme and must be completed before its adoption. SEA is therefore an integral and parallel part of the planning process.

The report may be part of the Plan, but in any case it must be clearly distinguishable.

SEA should be carried out independently but in close collaboration with the planning team, and may proceed in the same manner as the planning process. It should be an interactive process producing judgements and recommendations by SEA experts.

Environmental issues and concerns that should be considered under the EU SEA Directive:

  • biodiversity, fauna and flora
  • population and human health
  • soil
  • water
  • air and climatic factors
  • material assets
  • cultural heritage, including architectural and archaeological heritage
  • landscape
  • energy efficiency
  • use of renewable and non-renewable resources
  • adaptation to climate change
  • transport demands, accessibility and mobility, etc.

Of special concern is the inclusion in the SEA of the marine zone and up-stream impacts on areas beyond the coast.

See Also


This article has been drafted by PAP/RAC
Please note that others may also have edited the contents of this article.

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