Institute For Sustainable Innovation

Opinions

20.03.2017

In recent years, strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is widely used in many countries around the world, which is a step-by-step procedure for analyzing and discussing the possible environmental consequences of implementing proposed state and municipal development strategies, plans and programs with relevant authorities, the public, stakeholders. The results of the discussion are presented to politicians and decision-makers, so that they can assess all the advantages and disadvantages of various development options. Thus, due to SEA, decision-making becomes more transparent and raises more public confidence. Ultimately, SEA is a mechanism that allows governments to selectively choose economic development options that are favorable to public health and environmental protection.

The principles providing the prevention of adverse environmental impacts of economic activity are being actively introduced around the world. There are models for the introduction and development of environmental assessment procedures: countries that are committed to compliance with EU norms adopt laws that meet the requirements of European directives; other countries form their regulatory framework within the state environmental approval system, supplemented by the procedure of environmental impact assessment (EIA).

The necessary harmonization of the environmental assessment in different countries is a rather slow process; and the wide discussions that are taking place now indicate significant methodological problems. To solve these problems and accelerate the adoption of a unified environmental assessment, it is necessary to:

 - pay attention to the trend of expansion of the subject of SEA in the context of assessing the "resilience", primarily from the point of maintaining / increasing the capital of the territories development sustainability, reducing risks to life and preserving ecosystems through the balanced use of environmental, social and economic capital;

- supplement the rational positivist natural-scientific approach to the study of environmental problems within SEA with elements of a goal-oriented normative approach;

 - understand that the awareness of the social and economic consequences of SEA depends on the extent of the development orientation towards achieving strong or weak sustainability.

Thus, there are sufficient grounds for expanding the SEA procedure in the context of focusing on the Sustainable Development Goals and its integration with social and economic issues. If the current practice of SEA develops to regard various sustainability factors, the main challenge will be to ensure that, ultimately, economic, social and environmental issues are addressed equally so that sustainability assessment remains neutral with respect to the interests affected. Environmental protectionism in the assessment of strategic and planning documents is advisable to do for areas with a particularly adverse environmental situation. Progress in this direction will undoubtedly serve to strengthen the existing SEA process as a result of a greater emphasis on providing initial information and consultations with expert organizations and the public.

Georgy Fomenko


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