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Working Paper
May, 2014
Assessment of the extent to which Strategic Environmental
Assessment (SEA) can contribute towards ...
1. Introduction
Climate change the „wicked problem‟ is continually imposing significant threat to the nature
as a whole, a...
In this study the extent of addressing climate change mitigation and adaptation through SEA
will be trying to explore base...
2050 by around 40% below the baseline. Integrated urban planning, transit-oriented
development, compact urban form that su...
3. SEA and Climate Change Nexus
3.1 SEA – Definition, Legal Context and Guidance
Appropriate definition of SEA that explici...
2008; Larsen et al. 2012). Moreover, the available literatures and guidelines till date suggest
that climate change should...
climate change risks have been taken into account in the course of formulation of the PPP; ii)
the extent to which the PPP...
Programme addresses the issue of climate change in adequate detail. However the
programme has some limitations with respec...
the SEA report based on national/regionalised target which should be further broken down
according to specific sectors. Fo...
References
Baker, J.L. (2012). Climate Change, Disaster Risk and the Urban Poor: Cities Building Resilience for
A Changing...
NY, USA: Cambridge University Press.
IPCC. (2014a). Summary for Policymakers. In T. F. Stocker, D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M....
Adaptation in Strategic Environmental Assessment. Environmental Impact Assessment
Review, 32(1), 88–93.
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Assessment of the Extent to which Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) can Contribute Towards Mitigation and Adaptation to Climate Change Futures

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In this study the extent of addressing climate change mitigation and adaptation through SEA will be trying to explore based on available literatures, which is very few due to this domains infancy till date. In doing so present context of climate change will be described concisely. Following that, nexus between climate change and SEA will be highlighted based on SEA principles, guidance and best practice manual and empirical evidences of the integration in several countries. Drawing insights from the prior discussions, deficits and recommendations will be stated for future research agendas.

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Assessment of the Extent to which Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) can Contribute Towards Mitigation and Adaptation to Climate Change Futures

  1. 1. Working Paper May, 2014 Assessment of the extent to which Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) can contribute towards mitigation and adaptation to climate change futures Shahadat Hossain Shakil Environmental Management Coordinator (USAID/Bangladesh) E-mail: shshakil.buet@gmail.com Tazrina Habib Ananya Research Associate (C3ER, BRAC University) E-mail: ananya_tz@yahoo.com
  2. 2. 1. Introduction Climate change the „wicked problem‟ is continually imposing significant threat to the nature as a whole, according to the recent projections (IPCC 2013; Bondeau et al. 2013). This anticipated hazard is unavoidable to some extent, though the source of the problem („green house gas‟ emission) is stopped right now (IPCC 2014a). Combination of mitigation (reducing or capturing GHG) and adaptation effort has been suggested both in the short and long term to achieve the complementary advantage (i.e. cost) and to reduce the risk (IPCC 2014a; 2014b). Transportation, residential and business energy use and industrial sector are the major contributor of global GHG emission (EPA 2013). These three sectors are influenced actively by spatial planning and overarching environmental planning through Strategic Environmental Assessment-„SEA‟ and Environmental Impact Assessment-„EIA‟. This is because the pattern of land use within any area sets the characteristics of the emission from the aforementioned two sectors which is governed largely by SEA in Europe (key contributor in global emission) and industrial emission is ruled through EIA; the two most vital tools of spatial planning for securing the broad environmental goal (Hurlimann and March 2012; Wende et al. 2012). Furthermore, climate risk can be reduced significantly through incorporating adaptation solutions (i.e. drainage, air circulation) in the land use/spatial plan. Indeed, SEA and EIA are acknowledged as the means for the implementation of climate protection within spatial planning and thus can be seen as the appropriate tool for „climate proofing‟ (Blanco et al. 2009). The strategic environmental assessment (SEA) procedure is well-grounded to methodically deal climate change adaptation and mitigation in planning and development. This is because climate change is inextricably linked with the objectives of SEA which are – concern for sustainable development and taking into account long-term and cumulative effects of which climate change is a principal example (Posas 2011b). In addition, SEA is usually a more appropriate device for dealing with climate change than EIA. This is due to EIA‟s reactive rather than proactive nature. By contrast SEA has the advantages of – addressing climate change earlier in the process than the traditional environmental assessments; relating climate change with other policy endeavour; and shifting the focus on causes instead of only effects (Dalfelt and Næss 1997; cited in Posas 2011b).
  3. 3. In this study the extent of addressing climate change mitigation and adaptation through SEA will be trying to explore based on available literatures, which is very few due to this domains infancy till date. In doing so present context of climate change will be described concisely. Following that, nexus between climate change and SEA will be highlighted based on SEA principles, guidance and best practice manual and empirical evidences of the integration in several countries. Drawing insights from the prior discussions, deficits and recommendations will be stated for future research agendas. 2. Context of Climate Change Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC 1992), in its Article 1, described climate change as: „a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.‟ The UNFCCC thus makes a difference between climate change due to human activities changing the atmospheric composition and climate variability attributable to natural causes (IPCC 2013). 2.1 Impact Observed Warming of the climate system is explicit. Global surface temperature change at the end of the 21st century is likely to cross 1.5°C compared to 1850 to 1900. The rate of sea level rise since the mid 19th century has been larger than the average rate during the previous two centuries. Over the period 1901 to 2010, global mean sea level rose on an average by 0.19m. Carbon dioxide concentration has increased by 40% since the pre-industrial times, largely from fossil fuel emissions and land use change emissions. Human intervention in the climate structure is unambiguous. Further emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system. Most characteristics of climate change will continue for many centuries, even if emissions are stopped totally at this point (IPCC 2013; Bondeau et al. 2013). 2.2 Mitigation Need „Mitigation is a human intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases’ (IPCC 2014a). According to Fifth Assessment Report of IPCC (IPCC 2014a), technical and behavioural mitigation instrument for all transport modes, in addition, new infrastructure and urban redevelopment investments could decrease final energy demand in
  4. 4. 2050 by around 40% below the baseline. Integrated urban planning, transit-oriented development, compact urban form that supports cycling and walking, and new infrastructures such as high-speed rail systems that will reduce short-haul air travel demand, can play a vital role in emission reduction (IPCC 2014a); which can be guided at the very beginning of the policy and plan making through instruments like the SEA. Moreover, the next two decades present a window of opportunity for mitigation in urban areas, as a significant segment of the world‟s „transition/semi-urban‟ areas will be urbanized during this period in the developing countries (Blanco et al. 2009). 2.3 Adaptation Requirement „Adaptation is the process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects. In human systems, adaptation seeks to moderate or avoid harm or exploit beneficial opportunities. In some natural systems, human intervention may facilitate adjustment to expected climate and its effects’ (IPCC 2014b). Adaptation is increasingly implanted in the spatial planning processes in the face of climate change threat, both in the developed and developing countries. Engineering and technological options (i.e. improved drainage, retention wall for sea and river etc.) are commonly implemented as adaptive responses and often merged with the existing programs such as disaster risk management and water resource management. Governments at various levels are starting to develop adaptation plans and policies and to integrate climate-change considerations into broader development plans in the developed countries, where SEA can play a major role to govern this „crucial inclusion‟. On the other hand local communities‟ self-prompt adaptation activities (i.e. raising plinth level of the house, livelihood diversification etc.) is also prominent in the absence of government initiative (Baker 2012; IPCC 2014b). Many global risks of climate change are concentrated in urban areas due to population density and investment. Urban adaptation strengthened by effective multi-level urban risk governance, strengthening local government and community adaptation capacity, alignment of policies and incentives, synergies with the private sector and appropriate financing and institutional development (IPCC 2014b), which can be coordinated and facilitated through the environmental governing instrument like the SEA.
  5. 5. 3. SEA and Climate Change Nexus 3.1 SEA – Definition, Legal Context and Guidance Appropriate definition of SEA that explicitly include the dual dimensions of environment/climate change stated by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, South Africa in their SEA guidelines such as ‘SEA is a process of integrating the concept of sustainability into strategic decision making that involves identifying the opportunities and constraints that the environment and socio-economic conditions present for future development’. This definition through highlighting the environmental prospects and limitations, made the dual nature of climate change issues (e.g. potential to increase/decrease greenhouse gas emissions and vulnerability to climate changes and hazards) more apparent and thus increased the likelihood to be acknowledged and addressed (DEAT 2007; cited in Posas 2011b). In the European Union (EU) member countries, SEA is explicitly obligatory under the EU SEA Directive - 2001/42/EC (EC 2001) to consider the significant effects related to „climatic factors‟, which is progressively understood to include „climate change‟. Multilateral development banks and international development agencies also requires SEAs for many of their projects in client countries and express pledge to consider climate change (Therivel 2004; Fischer 2007; Posas 2011a). Additionally, Kørnøv and Wejs (2013) stated two major relationships between the EU SEA Directive and the climate change agenda. First, the directive provides a significant opportunity for the incorporation of climate change concerns in plans and programmes generally within all sectors. Second, the directive provides a foundation for securing that, specific „climate change plans‟ are developed with a systematic consideration of effects linked with a broader concept of the environment. The most usually recognized EIA based SEA practice comprises of seven main procedural stages – screening; scoping; analysis of alternatives; report preparation and review; decision making; follow up and monitoring; and consultation and participation (Therivel 2004; Fischer 2007). From the perspective of climate change and related hazard inclusion, scoping is perhaps the most important stage. Climate change and disaster risk should be clearly mentioned in the scope of the SEA and in the „terms of reference‟ of policies, plans and programs - PPPs (Environment Agency et al. 2007; OECD
  6. 6. 2008; Larsen et al. 2012). Moreover, the available literatures and guidelines till date suggest that climate change should be accounted in SEA in relation to alternatives, greenhouse gas emissions reduction and monitoring and in relation to stakeholder involvement and biodiversity conservation (Burdge 2008; Larsen and Kørnøv 2009; Byer et al. 2012; Kørnøv and Wejs 2013). 3.2 Addressing Mitigation Need through SEA Sadler (1996) stated that SEA process can serve as an early warning system through identifying major CO2 emitting projects, particularly in energy and transport sector and thus helping secure reductions through the consideration of alternatives. According to Larsen and Kørnøv (2009) in the SEA process, mitigation refers to gauging the environmental consequences of a plan in terms of potential emissions of GHG and the abatement of that. For example an SEA of a development plan for a new urban area can include assessments of GHG emissions from generated traffic. For achieving the mitigation objective through SEA, PPPs should clearly mention the country or sector specific GHG emission target in its aim. In the absence of that, specific mitigation objective should be pointed out (Wende et al. 2012). SEA should assess GHG emissions for each relevant component and phase of the proposal (PPP). This should be estimated by using a life-cycle approach and should include any effects of the proposal on carbon sinks (i.e. forest, water body). Alternative measures should also be identified to trim down the GHG emissions directly or indirectly by opting different technologies or designs (Byer et al. 2012). Moreover, the effects upon climate change of any single project may be insubstantial, but it will be noteworthy when accounted together with numerous past, present and future projects. GHG emissions should therefore also be considered at a level (typically at policy, plan or program) that addresses the cumulative effects of individual projects (Environment Agency et al. 2007). 3.3 Addressing Adaptation Requirement through SEA OECD Good Practice Guidance Series on Strategic Environmental Assessment and Adaptation to Climate Change (OECD 2008), advocated applying a „climate adaptation lens‟ while formulating and implementing PPPs. “A climate adaptation lens is an analytical process/step/tool to examine a policy, plan or programme (PPP). The application of a climate adaptation lens at the national or sectoral level involves examining – i) the extent to which
  7. 7. climate change risks have been taken into account in the course of formulation of the PPP; ii) the extent to which the PPP under consideration could be vulnerable to risks arising from climate variability and change; iii) the extent to which the PPP could lead to increased vulnerability, leading to mal-adaptation or conversely miss important opportunities arising from climate change; and iv) for pre-existing PPPs which are being revised, what amendments might be warranted in order to address climate risks and opportunities” (OECD 2008, p.8). For achieving the adaptation objective through SEA, PPPs should be aligned with country‟s overarching plans (i.e. National Adaptation Plan of Action-NAPA). In absence of that, specific adaptation objective/task should be assigned to each PPP. Vulnerability assessment of alternatives under changing and uncertain scenario should be carried out to judge the best suitable option (Byer et al. 2012). On the other hand baseline environment can be significantly changed by variable climate upon which the impact of the proposal will be evaluated. SEA should define specifically the baseline environment; and should also portray specific adaptation measures for different alternatives under consideration to finally select one based on its environment, economic and social implications (Environment Agency et al. 2007; OECD 2008). 4. Climate Change Integration within SEA – Empirical Evidences Larsen et al. (2012) analysed 149 Danish SEA report with a view to explore the synergies between climate change mitigation and adaptation; and climate change integration with other environmental concerns. They explored that climate change is integrated into 57% of the SEA reports and this inclusion is in increasing trend due to rising focus on climate change issues in the society. Regarding the approaches, mitigation is integrated into 51% of the SEA reports, whilst adaptation is integrated into 14.8%. The document analysis shows that only 12% of the reports include both mitigation and adaptation. In addition, in a separate study on the same data set it was also explored that climate change uncertainties were systematically avoided or downplayed in most of the Danish SEAs (Larsen et al. 2013). Wende et al. (2012) evaluated SEAs of land use plans in the German state of Saxony and the East of England region for their consideration of climate change impacts based on a set of criteria. Their conclusion is in Germany older, currently valid regional plans have almost no references to global climate change. On the contrary, the Saxony State Development
  8. 8. Programme addresses the issue of climate change in adequate detail. However the programme has some limitations with respect to climate change integration such as - i) absence of targets for CO2 reduction; ii) large-scale and long-term impacts are not considered; and iii) climate-friendly alternatives have not been considered. Besides in England, in general, national targets for mitigation are well known, but this does not lead to any implications for avoidance of climate change. Spatial planning is constrained by the geographical borders under consideration and for this large scale impacts are not considered directly. The SEAs are bound within the spatial plan content and do not provide suggestions for how climate change goals might be regionalised. 5. Shortfalls and Way Forward Lack of readily available specific standards and guidance with regard to climate change in SEA affect the work of SEA practitioners as well as SEA outputs and potential to influence the final decision (Li et al. 2013). On the other hand , SEA is not the solitary way, or even the best way to handle climate change issues. Addressing climate change through SEA should be supported by parallel efforts at multiple levels in order for mitigation and adaptation to be increasingly mainstreamed into all levels of planning in the society (Posas 2011b). Estimating the contribution of GHG from all elements, in all phases and for all alternatives within a SEA is a cumbersome procedure for the practitioners additionally challenged by the appropriate standards availability (Environment Agency et al. 2007; Byer et al. 2012). Besides, climate change prediction is very uncertain and in some cases contains very low confidence level. That‟s why prescribing adaptation measures for the PPPs under consideration will be not the exact answer, which is subject to revise with time (OECD 2008). Furthermore, within the limited integration of climate change in SEA practice, it is still focused on mitigation and adaptation is still in its infancy due to uncertain future scenarios, which has been revealed in the prior segment. Further, within the mitigation objective specific goal for emission reduction is absent due to knowledge gap and lack of official commitment to global agenda (Posas 2011a; Larsen et al. 2012; Wende et al. 2012; Kørnøv and Wejs 2013). To overcome the above mentioned shortfalls, some way forward has been suggested in the literatures. Wende et al. (2012) suggested that specific CO2 mitigation should mentioned in
  9. 9. the SEA report based on national/regionalised target which should be further broken down according to specific sectors. For broader aspect, EU should describe the protected asset “climatic factors” more clearly in the SEA Directive for the purpose of global climate protection and climate change adaptation (Helbron et al. 2011; cited in Wende et al. 2012). Concrete practical action and implementation guidelines should be developed in the EU and in its member state countries for the methodological implementation of climate change protection in the SEA process (Posas 2011b). However, it has to be considered that SEA should not be overstretched through imposing extensive new requirements regarding „climate proofing‟ (Runge et al. 2011; cited in Wende et al. 2012) 6. Conclusion Strategic Environmental Assessment is a crucial tool to integrate climate change issue in all sectors of development in the earlier stage due to its scale/level of operation (PPP). Climate change threat should be dealt through SEA with appropriate mitigation targets for long-term results and adequate adaptation measures for present natural hazards and disasters. SEA and climate change integration is still very limited among which mitigation receives the prime focus because of the preliminary concept of avoiding climate change through „emission reduction‟. Adaptation is still a new idea for SEA but which is needed the most in the near future and also challenged by the uncertain prediction mechanism of the climatic system followed by investment risk. To improve the SEA practice in terms of climate change concerns, legal tools currently available should be amended to elaborate the extent and specific margin of desired integration. Following that, detailed and practical guidelines and standards for the practitioners should be developed along with country specific mitigation objective and adaptation plan. In contrast, it should be considered that the principal goal of SEA is to ameliorate the negative impact of PPPs which should not be made burdensome through enforcing weighty and complex requirement of integration of climate change. Climate change impact should be deal with dedicated mitigation and adaptation programs across sectors and administrative level. However, amalgamation of climate change concern with strategic environmental assessment is vital for addressing the most pressing environmental concern now-a-days.
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