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[en] Screening within Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is the first critical stage involving considerations on whether an assessment is carried out or not. Although legislation and guidance offer practitioners a legal and logical approach to the screening process, it is inevitable that discretionary judgement takes place and will impact on the screening decision. This article examines the results of discretion involved in screening of climate change plans (CCPs) in a Danish context. These years voluntary CCPs are developed as a response to the global and local emergence of both mitigation and adaptation, and the voluntary commitment by the local authorities is an indication of an emerging norm of climate change as an important issue. This article takes its point of departure in the observation that SEA is not undertaken for these voluntary CCPs. The critical analysis of this phenomenon rests upon a documentary study of Danish CCPs, interviews with a lawyer and ministerial key person and informal discussions between researchers, practitioners and lawyers on whether climate change plans are covered by SEA legislation and underlying reasons for the present practice. Based on a critical analysis of mandatory SEA and/or obligation to screen CCPs according to significance criteria, the authors find that 18 out of the 48 CCPs are mandatory to SEA and 9 would require a screening of significance and thereby potentially be followed by a SEA. In practice only one plan was screened and one was environmentally assessed. The legal, democratic and environmental consequences of this SEA practice are critically discussed. Hereunder is the missed opportunity to use the broad environmental scope of SEA to avoid a narrow focus on energy and CO2 in CCPs, and the question whether this practice in Denmark complies with the EU Directive. -- Highlights: ► It is inevitable that discretionary judgement takes place and will impact on the screening decision. ► The article hereby calls for greater awareness of the discretion and judgement involved in SEA screening. ► Practice seemingly reveals a lack of application of SEA within climate change planning and a lack of explicit screening. ► Absence of SEAs of voluntary plans such as CCPs, have legal consequences, as well as democratic and environmental consequences. ► The vague definition of ‘administrative provision’ seems to impose the lacking SEA
[en] Sustainable urban development requires the integration of environmental interests in urban planning. Although various methods of environmental assessment have been developed, plan outcomes are often disappointing due to the complex nature of decision-making in urban planning, which takes place in multiple arenas within multiple policy networks involving diverse stakeholders. We argue that the concept of ‘decision windows’ can structure this seemingly chaotic chain of interrelated decisions. First, explicitly considering the dynamics of the decision-making process, we further conceptualized decision windows as moments in an intricate web of substantively connected deliberative processes where issues are reframed within a decision-making arena, and interests may be linked within and across arenas. Adopting this perspective in two case studies, we then explored how decision windows arise, which factors determine their effectiveness and how their occurrence can be influenced so as to arrive at more sustainable solutions. We conclude that the integration of environmental interests in urban planning is highly dependent on the ability of the professionals involved to recognize and manipulate decision windows. Finally, we explore how decision windows may be opened. -- Highlights: • Decision-making about sustainable urban development occurs in networks. • The concept of ‘decision windows’ was further elaborated. • Decision windows help understand how environmental interests enter decision-making. • Decision windows can, to some extent, be influenced
[en] The literature on impact assessment (HIA) registers the importance of stakeholder participation in the assessment process, but still lacks a model for engaging stakeholders of diverse ethnic, professional and sectorial backgrounds. This paper suggests that the multicultural approach can contribute to HIA through a revision of the generic 5-step HIA model, and its implementation in a metropolitan plan in Southern Israel. The health issue scoped by the stakeholders in the HIA is related to land uses in the vicinity of the national hazardous industry and hazardous waste site. The stakeholders were representatives of the diverse populations at stake, including rural Bedouins and Jewish city dwellers, as well as representatives from the public sector, private sector, non-governmental organizations and academia. The case study revealed that a multicultural stakeholder participation process helps to uncover health issues known to the community which were not addressed in the original plan, and provides local knowledge regarding health conditions that is especially valuable when scientific data is uncertain or absent. It enables diverse stakeholders to prioritize the health issues that will be assessed. The case study also reveals ways in which the model needs revisions and improvements such as in recruitment of diverse participants. This paper presents a multicultural model of HIA and discusses some of the challenges that are faced when HIA is implemented in the context of current decision-making culture. -- Highlights: • We revised the generic HIA model in light of the multicultural approach. • We tested the model in a case study of zoning a hazardous industry site. • Multicultural stakeholder participation uncovers health issues known to communities. • It enables community prioritization of health issues. • We present a model for multicultural stakeholder participation in HIA
[en] The assessment of different alternatives in road-corridor planning must be based on a number of well-defined territorial variables that serve as decision making criteria, and this requires a high-quality preliminary environmental assessment study. In Spain the formal specifications for the technical requirements stipulate the constraints that must be considered in the early stages of defining road corridors, but not how they should be analyzed and ranked. As part of the feasibility study of a new road definition, the most common methodology is to establish different levels of Territorial Carrying Capacity (TCC) in the study area in order to summarize the territorial variables on thematic maps and to ease the tracing process of road-corridor layout alternatives. This paper explores the variables used in 22 road-construction projects conducted by the Ministry of Public Works that were subject to the Spanish EIA regulation and published between 2006 and 2008. The aim was to evaluate the quality of the methods applied and the homogeneity and suitability of the variables used for defining the TCC. The variables were clustered into physical, environmental, land-use and cultural constraints for the purpose of comparing the TCC values assigned in the studies reviewed. We found the average quality of the studies to be generally acceptable in terms of the justification of the methodology, the weighting and classification of the variables, and the creation of a synthesis map. Nevertheless, the methods for assessing the TCC are not sufficiently standardized; there is a lack of uniformity in the cartographic information sources and methodologies for the TCC valuation. -- Highlights: • We explore 22 road-corridor planning studies subjected to the Spanish EIA regulation. • We analyze the variables selected for defining territorial carrying capacity. • The quality of the studies is acceptable (methodology, variable weighting, mapping). • There is heterogeneity in the methods for territorial carrying capacity valuation
[en] Modification and loss of forests due to natural and anthropogenic disturbance contribute an estimated 20% of annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions worldwide. Although forest carbon pool modeling rarely suggests a ‘carbon neutral’ flux profile, the life cycle assessment community and associated product carbon footprint protocols have struggled to account for the GHG emissions associated with forestry, specifically, and land use generally. Principally, this is due to underdeveloped linkages between life cycle inventory (LCI) modeling for wood and forest carbon modeling for a full range of forest types and harvest practices, as well as a lack of transparency in globalized forest supply chains. In this paper, through a comparative study of U.S. and Chinese coated freesheet paper, we develop the initial foundations for a methodology that rescales IPCC methods from the national to the product level, with reference to the approaches in three international product carbon footprint protocols. Due to differences in geographic origin of the wood fiber, the results for two scenarios are highly divergent. This suggests that both wood LCI models and the protocols need further development to capture the range of spatial and temporal dimensions for supply chains (and the associated land use change and modification) for specific product systems. The paper concludes by outlining opportunities to measure and reduce uncertainty in accounting for net emissions of biogenic carbon from forestland, where timber is harvested for consumer products. - Highlights: ► Typical life cycle assessment practice for consumer products often excludes significant land use change emissions when estimating carbon footprints. ► The article provides a methodology to rescale IPCC guidelines for product-level carbon footprints. ► Life cycle inventories and product carbon footprint protocols need more comprehensive land use-related accounting. ► Interdisciplinary collaboration linking the LCA and forest carbon modeling communities is necessary.
[en] Strategic environmental assessment (SEA) has become an increasingly important decision-support tool for providing information on the environmental implications of a policy, plan, or program. The goal is to safeguard the environment and promote sustainable development at the strategic level. Despite major progress in implementing SEA practices internationally, developing countries, such as China, often lag behind in applying SEA methodology. Lack of available data and time constraints arising from tight schedules create problems. The rapid impact assessment matrix (RIAM) is a potential resource for breaking through such difficulties. Our analysis of RIAM applications suggested that it could become a tool for evaluating strategic alternatives because of its applicability in interdisciplinary settings, its transparency, and its short implementation timeframe. To make it more suitable for the SEA context, we have developed two major improvements to the conventional RIAM process: assignment of weights to assessment indicators and the development of an integrated environmental assessment score (IES). The improved RIAM process was employed in an SEA of the development plan for the Nansha District in Guangzhou, the capital city of Guangdong Province in China. It was used to assess five alternatives for development in Wanqingsha (WQS), a subunit of Nansha, where important ecological resources are located and where industrial development could impact the air quality in the neighboring Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). The evaluation identified WQS-A04 as the preferred alternative. This alternative involved a minimal amount of industrial development – 10% compared with the most intense development alternative – and included important wetland preservation plans. The assessment results have been incorporated into the officially approved development plan for Nansha. The improved RIAM methodology is well adapted to the technical aims of SEA and decision-making structures in China. It offers the potential for delivering timely and quality results to decision-making processes. To achieve the desired efficiency, it is recommended that an SEA procedure take into account findings acquired from an improved RIAM application at an early stage, then, at a later stage, results from more comprehensive assessments conducted using more sophisticated methods should be added, if time and data are available. - Highlights: • RIAM is a potential SEA tool due to its multidisciplinary setting and rapid process. • Weighting index and computing IES are raised for improving RIAM when applied to SEAs. • The improved RIAM boosts SEA effectiveness by timely responding to decision-making. • The improved RIAM is more suitable to an SEA bothered by tight time or data shortage. • The improved RIAM adapts to the technical aims of SEA and decision features in China
[en] Academic literature has been continuously growing at such a pace that it can be difficult to follow the progression of scientific achievements; hence, the need to dispose of quantitative knowledge support systems to analyze the literature of a subject. In this article we utilize network analysis tools to build a literature review of scientific documents published in the multidisciplinary field of Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA). The proposed approach helps researchers to build unbiased and comprehensive literature reviews. We collect information on 7662 SEA publications and build the SEA Bibliographic Network (SEABN) employing the basic idea that two publications are interconnected if one cites the other. We apply network analysis at macroscopic (network architecture), mesoscopic (sub graph) and microscopic levels (node) in order to i) verify what network structure characterizes the SEA literature, ii) identify the authors, disciplines and journals that are contributing to the international discussion on SEA, and iii) scrutinize the most cited and important publications in the field. Results show that the SEA is a multidisciplinary subject; the SEABN belongs to the class of real small world networks with a dominance of publications in Environmental studies over a total of 12 scientific sectors. Christopher Wood, Olivia Bina, Matthew Cashmore, and Andrew Jordan are found to be the leading authors while Environmental Impact Assessment Review is by far the scientific journal with the highest number of publications in SEA studies. - Highlights: • We utilize network analysis to analyze scientific documents in the SEA field. • We build the SEA Bibliographic Network (SEABN) of 7662 publications. • We apply network analysis at macroscopic, mesoscopic and microscopic network levels. • We identify SEABN architecture, relevant publications, authors, subjects and journals
[en] This article details how health impacts came to be assessed in three mega, billion dollar, transport infrastructure projects, two road tunnels and one light rail, in Sydney Australia. The known health impacts of transport decisions include environmental, behavioural and social factors. EIA practice prioritises environmental risks, and there has been scant attention to understanding why this is persistently the case. Here we provide a critical theory lens, using critical realist methodology, to analyse empirical data collected through interviews and documents for the three cases. Our analysis focusses on EIA practice within its institutional context, building on ‘new institutional’ approaches to policy analysis that emphasise actors (the stakeholders involved in the EIA), structures (the ‘rules of the game’ that influence practice in systems), and power. We find that the various actors engaged in the EIAs principally to address particular goals that were pre-determined by the system in which they worked or belonged. Structurally, each EIA was undertaken as a compliance process relatively late in the planning process. Considering project options was not part of the EIA's purpose. Resources to undertake the EIAs were provided by those funding the projects (“the proponents”) and determined the types of issues to be considered. The full range of links between transport and health were not identified. Concerning power, health impacts were considered through inter-professional technical negotiation. The inability to engage in the fundamental options driving projects meant impacted communities questioned the validity of the EIA, and the health assessment within this. Our institutional analysis provides important knowledge about how the EIAs preferenced a focus on specific health risks to the detriment of the known broader determinants that shape the health impacts of transport.
[en] Highlights: • Recent wind energy projects in Scotland mostly fail to consider ecosystem-level impacts on peatland. • Projects on peatland illustrate the usefulness of an ecosystem approach to Environmental Impact Assessment. • Defining more meaningful functional management units can improve Environmental Impact Assessment outcomes. • VAn ecosystem approach could also improve ecosystem services assessments. - Abstract: The Ecosystem Approach introduced in 1994 through the Convention on Biological Diversity, together with related Ecosystem-based Management and Landscape Approaches, are frequently called upon to improve ecological impact assessment. Current practice typically does not have such a systems focus and we explore the potential for explicitly adopting an Ecosystem Approach in the Environmental Impact Assessment process using wind energy development on peatland, in Scotland, as a case study. Based on a review of 21 windfarm projects (>50 MW) approved by the Scottish Government we provide an overview of current practice and identify and discuss how the 12 principles of the Ecosystem Approach can help identify options for more appropriate impact assessment. These include defining functional units of analysis that reflect the spatial and temporal linkages of peatland elements through hydrological connections, rather than a focus on individual vegetation types and simple distance buffers. Our conclusions are not limited to peatland and are relevant wherever meaningful functional management units can be defined, including in marine environments. Our results also show that environmental statements for wind energy development in Scotland largely ignore ecosystem services and the people that benefit from them. As for threatened species and other biodiversity features, an Ecosystem Approach is a prerequisite to the meaningful inclusion of ecosystem services in impact assessment.
[en] By their spatially very distributed nature, profitability and impacts of renewable energy resources are highly correlated with the geographic locations of power plant deployments. A web-based Spatial Decision Support System (SDSS) based on a Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) approach has been implemented for identifying preferable locations for solar power plants based on user preferences. The designated areas found serve for the input scenario development for a subsequent integrated Environmental Impact Assessment. The capabilities of the SDSS service get showcased for Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plants in the region of Andalusia, Spain. The resulting spatial patterns of possible power plant sites are an important input to the procedural chain of assessing impacts of renewable energies in an integrated effort. The applied methodology and the implemented SDSS are applicable for other renewable technologies as well. - Highlights: • The proposed tool facilitates well-founded CSP plant siting decisions. • Spatial MCDA methods are implemented in a WebGIS environment. • GIS-based SDSS can contribute to a modern integrated impact assessment workflow. • The conducted case study proves the suitability of the methodology