Strategic Environmental Assessment
Course Code and Name
In today’s globalized world, one of the best ways to capture current thinking is through the use of a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). SEA, according to Lobos and Partidario (2014), is a methodical approach to evaluating the environmental impacts of potential policies, strategies, or initiatives. It is a method for taking into account the long-term effects of a decision, as well as its immediate economic and societal implications, from the outset of the decision-making process. Strategy, plan, or program are evaluated for their suitability in dealing with environmental and climate change issues by a SEA. It also assesses if policies, plans, or programs have the potential to have negative impacts on the environment and climate resilience, and whether there are ways to improve environmental conditions and contribute to climate-resilient and low-carbon growth (Verheem & Tonk, 2000). SEA’s significance is well-known. Stakeholder input and environmental impact assessments for specific development projects are only some of the benefits of SEA, which promotes sustainable development, strengthens the evidence foundation for strategic decisions, and expedites other procedures like environmental impact assessments. SEA’s ability to take into account the broader environmental consequences of strategic ideas is one of its most important features. There has been a shift in the way coastal designs are approached, focusing on both the physical and social aspects of a place. This study will explore those aspects of procedural or methodological practice that demand further growth and refinement, based on conceptions of SEA effectiveness.Strategic Environmental Assessment
SEA is an approach and instrument for evaluating the influence of proposed policies, plans, and programs on natural resources as well as social and cultural contexts and economic conditions, as well as the institutional framework within which decisions are made. Policies, plans, and programs that address environmental issues are considered, and the interdependence of environmental issues with economic and social elements is assessed through the use of a variety of analytical and participatory methodologies (Gauthier, Simard, & Waaub, 2011). As a result, SEA takes a very broad and comprehensive approach to sustainability, taking into consideration all three dimensions of sustainability as well as institutional difficulties. Fischer, Matuzzi, & Nowacki (2010) identify that this is done on design since many of the pressures on the poor and the environment are the consequence of custom, tradition, and institutional issues such as land ownership and administration, and because the breadth is intended to be broad. Because policies have an influence on physical resources, it is difficult to evaluate their impact on physical resources without first understanding the sociocultural, economic, and institutional settings in which they are implemented. As development organizations move their attention away from individual projects and toward wider policies and goals, Noble and Nwanekezie (2017) point to how SEAs are becoming more and more critical. While these conclusions are widely agreed to be the most prudent course of action, the road from contemplation to action, and subsequently to results, has been a bumpy one thus far.
Aside from the holistic approach, SEA gives for some degree of decision-making freedom at various stages of its framework. Therefore, choices are examined at several levels of the planning and management system, not simply at the highest levels of policy and program development and implementation. Finally, SEA may be utilized as an effective proactive assessment technique, providing valuable input into the creation of public policy and planning (Huang, Fischer, & Xu, 2017). While SEA is not one single rigorous and prescriptive methodology, it may be seen as a family of approaches that utilize a variety of different tools and techniques. An effective SEA, according to Koval et al. (2021), is one that is appropriate for the scenario in which it is used and that is appropriate for the context in which it is used. An emphasis is placed on fully integrating environmental, social, and economic variables into a holistic sustainability assessment at one end of the spectrum, while integrating environmental issues with economic and social concerns into strategic decision-making is placed at the other end of the spectrum.
From the outset of the decision-making process, SEA is used to assist in the formulation of policies, plans, and programs, as well as to assess their potential for development effectiveness and sustainability. SEA, according to Beaussier et al. (2019), is used to assist in the creation of policies, initiatives, and programs, as well as to analyze their efficacy and sustainability. This sets it apart from other conventional environmental assessment procedures like the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), the latter has a demonstrated track record of addressing environmental hazards and opportunities in individual projects but are more challenging to apply to programs, policies, and mass plans due to their more formalized structure. SEA is intended to be used in conjunction with environmental impact assessments and other evaluation approaches and tools, not in substitute of them.
Using SEA in development cooperation has a number of advantages in terms of decision-making processes and development results. It provides environmental data to assist individuals in making more informed decisions and identifying new possibilities by facilitating a systematic and comprehensive examination of development options and alternatives (Bond et al., 2018). SEA helps to prudent resource and environmental management, setting the basis for long-term economic growth and stability. Additionally, SEA can aid in governance promotion by enhancing stakeholder involvement, allowing for trans-boundary collaboration on shared natural resources, and assisting in conflict avoidance.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a worldwide agenda for social, economic, and environmental action adopted by the United Nations and a huge part of the current turnaround by nations on matters regarding the environment. SEA may aid in the implementation of SDG-supporting efforts by providing a systematic framework for incorporating the SDGs into government policies, plans, and programs (Lobos & Partidario, 2014). The SDGs, in turn, have the potential to reaffirm the SEA’s commitment to sustainable development. As a consequence, integrating the two policy instruments results in a mutually beneficial relationship. In this study, we examine existing SEA participation in the SDGs in the scholarly literature as well as in practice to determine what is presently available. To demonstrate SEA’s contribution to sustainable development, it may be necessary to establish clearer and more meaningful connections between SEA and the SDGs, as well as help with implementation and influencing action in support of global goals.
Areas of SEA that Require Further Advancement and Improvement
Environmental impact assessments are becoming increasingly important to institutions, governments, and environmental assessment administrators all around the globe as they consider the environmental repercussions of policy, planning, and program decisions. A growing number of companies are turning to SEA to help them better understand the long-term environmental consequences of their actions. In many countries throughout the world, there is a growing amount of knowledge on various SEA techniques, including institutional frameworks, assessment and review processes, and outcomes attained in specific case applications, which is being collected and compiled (Partidario & Monteiro, 2019). It highlights the unique difficulties associated with building and implementing SEA, despite a paucity of understanding about how to ensure its success. Despite the fact that the SEA’s objectives have long been recognized as important, its implementation did not begin until the mid-1980s (Noble & Nwanekezie, 2017). An important approach in the process of improving EA performance, as well as an important instrument in the integration of environmental concerns into decision-making and the trend toward sustainability objectives, is the use of SEA. The fact that a large quantity of effort has been done in this area does not mean that an agreement on an acceptable SEA structure has yet to be reached.
There are a number of restrictions that apply to SEA. For starters, SEA necessitates a significant investment of time and resources. In the case of a SEA, for example, preparations may take anywhere from 50 to 100 days (Fundingsland Tetlow & Hanusch, 2012). Governmental resources in developing countries are already stretched to their limits, and this might add even more strain to their already overburdened systems. A significant number of procedures (such as gathering baseline data and involving stakeholders) are likely to have not yet been created because seabed exploration is a relatively new technological advancement in the field of oceanography. In order to successfully implement long-term strategic initiatives, SEA must be prepared to deal with uncertainty at all levels, from a local to a national or international one. Flooding or technological advancements, for example, may result in delays and technical difficulties on the road.
In order to be exact and scientific, SEA must be sensitive to the demands of the scenario, adaptable, and quick to respond to changing conditions. When making a decision, it is important to consider a variety of aspects, including SEA. Frequently, the choice is made on the basis of non-sustainable or environmental considerations. For instance, the findings of a SEA may persuade legislators to choose an ecologically friendly approach. Many sources, such as those located in underserved urban regions, are not taken into account by the SEA, which is a significant disadvantage (Partidário, 1996). The importance of social and economic concerns is usually undervalued. As a result, the SEA technique is reliant on a large number of quantitative data points that are not always available inside the boundaries of the affected urban area. Since it interacts with a wide variety of interdependent elements acting on several fronts, as well as with a wide range of societal values and a high degree of uncertainty about anticipated outcomes, SEA necessitates a high degree of adaptability and flexibility in the decision-making environment. Being presented with unexpected events, on the other hand, does not entail the need to make strategic decisions. The presence of uncertainty features is inextricably tied to the character of a strategic decision; yet, there are a number of uncertainties associated with the development of particular projects that lack the broad visionary and prohibitive quality associated with strategic alternatives.
Another important consideration in this context is the potential contribution of SEA to the achievement of environmental integrated decision-making in planning, ideation, policy formulation, and programs development. According to Rega and Baldizzone (2015), SEA is the process of incorporating environmental assessment principles into the decision-making process. Others perceive a major separation between enterprise architecture and integration. Different countries have recognized a wide range of hurdles and limits that are tied to their respective political and institutional settings, which may be found here. However, in the majority of cases, the difficulties presented appear to be related to the employment of a novel environmental assessment tool, which introduces a great deal of uncertainty and ambiguity into typical environmental decision-making (Ciccullo et al., 2018). One of the most common difficulties is a lack of supervision and training, as well as a lack of accountability and responsibility, as well as an inability to use established or proven ways.
The political and organizational structure of the environment in which SEA is used has a significant impact on the importance of the impediments that have been discovered by the SEA. Policymakers and planners usually lack the capacity to transmit essential information or encourage open debate that EA’s flexibility and participatory principles need because SEA applies to earlier activities in the decision-making process because SEA applies to earlier actions. It is necessary, however, for interest groups to exert some influence on policy development and implementation in order to guarantee that policies are ecologically sound and sustainable (Huang, Fischer, & Xu, 2017). This may be accomplished through critical analysis and political pressure. In addition, problems of secrecy and legality may arise, posing significant obstacles to an open and transparent assessment and decision-making process that might otherwise be possible. In order to be successful in the SEA, a number of complicated limitations must be met, which is especially true in more open political systems.
The success of the SEA is dependent on strong political will on the part of governments and other global institutions such as the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund. It is necessary for each political and organizational culture to develop the administrative and institutional mechanisms necessary to implement a SEA system, as well as to determine the most effective means of ensuring a certain level of accountability for policy, planning, and program proposals, particularly those that are politically sensitive (Bond et al., 2018). On the other hand, if more strict and inflexible political regimes do not include environmental assessment methods or allow for public scrutiny as integral components of the decision-making process, it is expected that further impediments would be encountered. In these circumstances, no procedural or technical solution can be a substitute for political responsibility, as well as for effective and flexible institutional structures and processes.
Suggestions Regarding the Use of SEA in the Future
Nations with adaptable and open cultural and political frameworks are more likely to have produced solid environmental policies and well-defined environmental objectives in comparison to countries with rigid and closed systems. A broad range of ecosystem services (which should include ecosystems, people, and communities, in addition to natural and physical resources) and the repercussions of those services must be examined in order for SEA to be effective in attaining sustainable development (encompassing ecological, physical, social, cultural, and economic) (Fischer, Matuzzi, & Nowacki, 2010). SEA is confronted with a plethora of severe difficulties pertaining to its long-term existence. The first is the link between short-term environmental usage and long-term output, which includes cumulative impacts, as well as other factors mentioned by Rozas-Vásquez et al. (2018). The second stage involves establishing whether or not any irreversible alterations have occurred (Hayes & Fischer, 2021). Effective organizational structures must be built across and within departments/agencies responsible for policy formulation in order to handle the pre-stages and follow-up, as well as to assure the analysis, integration, and assessment of ideas. Involvement of stakeholders, steering committees, and interdepartmental committees are all examples of stakeholder engagement in action.
Identifying if an integrated environmental assessment and planning system will result in enhanced decision-making and environmental management without the need for a separate SEA technique is one of the challenges. Certain countries, like New Zealand, have a solid legislative framework for SEA, but there is a lack of advice, resources, and ways to help practitioners implement their policies (Beaussier et al., 2019). In other parts of the world such as Sweden, environmental and planning legislation just necessitates the creation of an EIS, without the requirement for an evaluation technique (Beaussier et al., 2019). New guidelines are required to augment current legislation in order to encourage critical thinking and compulsory decision-making rationalization procedures. It is also important that these recommendations should be developed in consultation with experts and with special consideration of elements that are unique to a given country.
Strategic Environmental Assessment is a methodical approach to evaluating the environmental impacts of potential policies, strategies, or initiatives. In this discussion, it has been established that SEA is a method for taking into account the long-term effects of a decision, as well as its immediate economic and societal implications, from the outset of the decision-making process. The sole purpose of the paper was to explore those aspects of procedural or methodological practice that demand further growth and refinement, based on conceptions of SEA effectiveness. It notes that SEA is an approach and instrument for evaluating the influence of proposed policies, plans, and programs on natural resources as well as social and cultural contexts and economic conditions, as well as the institutional framework within which decisions are made. As a result, SEA takes a very broad and comprehensive approach to sustainability, taking into consideration all three dimensions of sustainability as well as institutional difficulties. Using SEA in development cooperation has a number of advantages in terms of decision-making processes and development results. It provides environmental data to assist individuals in making more informed decisions and identifying new possibilities by facilitating a systematic and comprehensive examination of development options and alternatives. However, there are a number of restrictions that apply to SEA. The main issue is that as a new system, SEA is very uncertain, a situation that brings concerns to users. Nations with adaptable and open cultural and political frameworks are more likely to have produced solid environmental policies and well-defined environmental objectives in comparison to countries with rigid and closed systems. New guidelines are required to augment current legislation in order to encourage critical thinking and compulsory decision-making rationalization procedures.
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