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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Environmental Impact Assessment Review, Volume 36, September 2012, Pages 23–33
This paper evaluates the tensions that result from routinely applying SEA to all policies, plans and programmes within Scotland. The European Union SEA Directive, effective in many EU member states from 2004, introduced a requirement for environmental assessment of certain plans and programmes. Scotland, a devolved nation within the EU member state of the United Kingdom, aimed to be a ‘world leader in SEA’ by legislating for SEA to be undertaken of all public sector plans, programmes and strategies, with the word ‘strategies’ being equated with ‘policies’. This paper presents detailed data regarding Scottish SEA activity between 2004 and 2007, including responses to consultations on SEA reports. This empirical research found that, reflecting a general difficulty in determining where and when SEA should be applied, engagement with the SEA process was not as widespread as intended (including the pre-screening and screening stages). Eight tensions evident from Scotland's application of SEA are identified, and their broader relevance is examined.
Environmental assessment of a ‘project’, such as a road or landfill site, is referred to as environmental impact assessment. Strategic environmental assessment (SEA), on the other hand, is far broader and covers the environmental assessment of a policy, plan or programme. This paper argues that various strains or “tensions” exists between the aspiration to apply SEA broadly to integrate the environment into strategic decision-making and the unintended side-effects that then arise. Tension can be defined as “a situation or condition of hostility, suspense, or uneasiness” (Collins English Dictionary, 2000). This paper is informed by analysing data about SEA application in Scotland, rather than individual perceptions of people engaged with SEA. The rationale for undertaking environmental assessments at a higher decision making level than ‘projects’ is that, with the involvement of the public, cumulative impacts and sustainable alternatives can be considered from the policy level down (Glasson et al., 1994, McGillivray and Holder, 2007 and Tromans and Roger-Machart, 1997). In theory, a policy will affect and inform a plan, a plan will affect and inform a programme, and a programme will affect and inform a project. In other words there is a hierarchy of influence from policy level to project. This assumption of hierarchical influence from policies to projects also implicitly supports a related assumption that haunts academic and practitioner debate about SEA — that the more widespread the application of SEA, the better. For example, the assumption is evident in the concluding section, The future of SEA, of Thérivel's (2004) influential “practical guide on how to carry out [SEA]” (Therivel, 2004, back cover). Thérivel (2004, p. 209) states: “National level government decision-makers will feel pressure to carry out SEAs of their policies when local and regional level decision-makers start arguing that the un-SEAed national policies do not provide them with an acceptable, sustainable framework for their decisions.” However, it is important to note that Thérivel's (2004) ambition for a widespread application of SEA is goal orientated: the goal itself being the dissolution of SEA: “Decision-makers will start ‘thinking SEA’ while they develop their strategic action. Instead of perceiving SEA as a separate process that is ‘done on’ their strategic actions, they will start integrating environmental and sustainability thinking into their strategic actions … to the point where ultimately, hopefully, SEA will make itself (and this book) redundant.” (Thérivel, 2004, p. 209) As such, this statement suggests SEA is an educative process; techniques can be learnt, become ‘ingrained’, and forever after be tacitly applied. The detail of how education can take place through the use of SEA is not the focus of this paper, rather (more generally) it is important to note that many academics have identified SEAs potential, alongside other forms of impact assessment, as an ‘educational tool’ (e.g. Fischer et al., 2009 and Therivel, 2004). The assumption of need for a widespread application of SEA recently surfaced within the International Association of Impact Assessment (IAIA), 2011 conference on SEA Implementation and Practice which took place in Prague, Czech Republic. The conference programme's first core question (out of seven) was, “What needs to be done to accelerate environmental integration into strategic level decision making through the application of SEA?” (IAIA, 2011, p. 7). Literature continues to support widespread application of environmental assessment to all ‘tiers’ of plan making (e.g. Desmond, 2007 and Kirchhoff et al., 2011). SEA already has an expansive geographical reach: over much of Europe the requirement for “assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment” across a range of sectors primarily concerned with land use were put in place in 2004 by the SEA Directive (European Union, 2001). “For convenience… the term [SEA] is used… to mean an environmental assessment which complies with the Directive” (ODPM, 2005, p. 9, s.2.2). The SEA Directive intends to support transparency and public participation in environmental matters and thus contribute to international agreements such as the Aarhus Convention (UNECE, 1998). However, it requires public bodies in European member states to undertake environmental assessments of certain public sector “plans and programmes”, but not of “policies”. Therefore, Thérivel identifies that the SEA Directive is limited because it “does not apply to policies, which set the framework for plans or programmes: as such, SEAs are required for [plans and programmes] whose predecessors do not require SEA, with all the possible inconsistencies and conflicts this raises” (Thérivel, 2004, p. 33). Thérivel's statement supports the outcomes from Fisher's (2002) analysis of SEA in Transport and Land Use Planning in three European countries undertaken prior to the SEA Directive's introduction. Fisher identifies need for “formal requirements for tiered SEA application” from the policy level, down (Fischer, 2002, p. 241). In the EU, the practical application of SEA is influenced by how the provisions of the SEA Directive have been transposed into the laws of individual EU member states. Following the principle of subsidiarity (European Union, 2008, Article 5), each member state produced SEA regulations that reflected their own system of planning and governance (discussed in Schmidt et al., 2005). All of these legal commitments have as their objective to “provide for a high level of protection of the environment and to contribute to the integration of environmental considerations into the preparation and adoption of plans and programmes…” (European Union, 2001, Art 1). One devolved UK Government, Scotland, legislated to apply SEA to a broader range of plans and programmes than required by the SEA Directive -the intension, Scotland would become “a world leader” in SEA (SEEG, 2004). SEA does have a burgeoning critical academic literature to balance the “promotional tone” which often accompanies this tool (Wallington et al., 2007, p. 569). Literature has questioned whether SEA influences decision making, particularly in relation to what is ‘effective’ SEA (debates are summarised in Cashmore et al., 2010). SEA academic and policy literature has noted uncertain connections between policy and project level decisions (e.g. Arts et al., 2005, Scottish Executive, 2006 and Therivel, 2004). The role and purpose of SEA has been critically examined (Bina, 2007 and Wallington et al., 2007). However, despite the ‘strategic’ intent behind SEA being linked to a broad application, the tensions of SEA being undertaken of policies, plans and programmes have never been directly considered. This paper reviews potential tensions, points of strain, evident from examining an attempt to have SEA undertaken of all Scottish plans, programmes and strategies. The tensions revealed in the Scottish context enable an assessment of what tensions are likely to arise in other circumstances, particularly other European Union member states. Section 2 provides an overview of SEA in Scotland. Section 3 outlines how empirical study of SEA informs this paper and presents the results. Section 4 concludes this paper by providing a summary of the tensions revealed.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
The broader application of SEA in Scotland was viewed as a flagship environmental measure, supporting greater transparency about how public sector decision-making takes account of environmental impacts. However, Scotland's ambition to apply SEA to all plans, programmes and strategies – going further than the SEA Directive – reveals tensions between ideals disseminated though legislation and what can practically happen in practice. Such tensions, summarised in Table 5, are likely to exist for other nations who intend to apply SEA broadly and thus raises questions about whether applying SEA broadly contributes to integrating the environment into strategic decision making. Firstly, although the European Directive applies SEA to plans and programmes there is some flexibility in the interpretation of this term ‘plans and programmes’. This difficulty of defining plan or programme flags up an issue of definition that will arise if other EU member states (or other countries outside the EU) choose to legislate to apply SEA more broadly to their public sector. This issue of definition relates to Tension 1. SEA in Scotland applies more broadly across the public sector, to a broader range of “Scottish public authorities” than the SEA Directive. However there will likely be a general difficulty in determining what exactly is a “public authority”, or a related concept in a language other than English. Allied to this is a second tension – understanding whether or not SEA was being undertaken as broadly as intended necessitates a register of all plans and programmes – however, to register all plans and programmes it is necessary to understand where SEA should be undertaken (back to Tension 1). Clearly, these tensions are only apparent because data is available in Scotland; this will not be obvious in other countries that do not have such detailed data. There is evidence to demonstrate that information is copied between environmental reports or SEA documents. In any system some regularity is required to facilitate administrative procedures, and formats must (to a degree) be followed. Therefore, such regularity is likely to be found in other nations were SEA is being applied. This illustrates Tension 3. Arguably increased application of SEA could increase copying — whether as a result of having a required format, inter-connections between plans and programmes or just general plagiarism. People engaged in the SEA process will be aware that aspects of environmental reports are copied. However, people responding to public consultation arguably view reports as ‘stand alone’ documents. A report may be legally compliant for its plan or programme, but may not reveal how copying influenced its content. Applying SEA broadly will, to an extent, require the development of routines. Tension 4 is the tension between the need for a regularised process to enable efficiency which reflects a value system and the ability of SEA to reappraise or examine dominant values in attempt to change how people ‘think’. Viewing inter-connections between different reports draw attention to the limited number of people involved in SEA. Although SEA should be undertaken in-house — in practice often experts are involved. In a country the size of Scotland, but also more broadly, there is a limited number of people available to undertake specialist forms of assessment (Tension 5). Additionally, where a large number of organisations intend to undertake SEA there will be practical limits to the people available to participate in the SEA process (Tension 6). The SEA Act requires every public sector organisation in Scotland to engage with SEA. But can SEA realistically be integrated into day-to-day activities so that all public sector decision makers are ‘thinking SEA’? As was demonstrated it is difficult to monitor whether SEA is being done, but it is even more difficult to assess how it is being done. The lack of participation, either in the production of the reports (Tension 5) or more broadly (Tension 6), undermines the idea that legal challenge would motivate widespread application of SEA (Tension 7). All of this discussion prompts a bigger set of questions. Is SEA meant to be an uncomplicated process that can be easily streamlined into public sector decision-making? Does changing the way people think, using SEA or other mechanism, necessitate some discomfort on behalf of those taking part in this change? Highlighting tensions is an essential process, as it promotes thought about the application of SEA. Without thought, legislation to apply SEA broadly may itself be in tension with the objective of integrating environmental considerations into strategic decision making.