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Conference paper, 2005

EIA/SEA – a challenge to decision-making, planning and policy-making?

Hedlund Anders, Söderbaum Peter


The purpose of EIA and SEA is to assure that environmental aspects are taken into account in planning and decision-making. But there is more to it: the procedures of EIA and SEA both have certain characteristics that are of interest from perspectives of ethics and science as well as planning theory and decision-making philosophy. We claim that EIA/SEA stands for an interdisciplinary, open-ended, disaggregated learning process with participation and interaction between actors, stakeholders and the public as key activities. The focus is to identify and assess significant negative impacts caused by an actual plan, programme or project. In this way, EIA/SEA supports planning and decision-making in cases when complex and adverse impacts are at stake. In itself, EIA/SEA is not, and should not be, a planning tool or an instrument to implement overriding plans and policies. In practise, however, EIA/SEA tends to play an ambivalent role. At least in Sweden, EIA/SEA is sometimes a closed process focusing on the assess¬ment of compliance with environmental policy, objectives for environmental protection, and comprehensive plans and programmes. In this way, there is a risk that EIA/SEA becomes an instrument of top-down policy-making – at the expense of an open, transparent process and participative qualities. We believe that EIA/SEA, by putting emphasis on its characteristics, offers an approach that can significantly influence planning and decision-making to make it both more transparent and democratic and more compatible with sustainable development. In this paper, underlying ethical and scientifical perspectives (and ideologies and philosophies) are illuminated in order to understand prerequisites and mechanisms for effective and efficient use of EIA/SEA. EIA/SEA is also discussed in relation to cost-benefit analysis, multi-criteria approaches and positional analysis. Key words: EIA, SEA, decision-making, planning, policy-making, cost-benefit analysis, multi-criteria approaches, positional analysis

Published in


Ethics and Quality, International Association for Impact Association

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

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