Research Handbooks on Impact Assessment series
Edited by Angus Morrison-Saunders, Jenny Pope and Alan Bond
Chapter 5: Sustainability considerations in regional environmental assessment
The emergence of the sustainability imperative in environmental assessment coincides roughly with the emergence of the global sustainable development agenda in the late 1980s. Since that time, ‘many visions, reports and plans on different levels up to the EU [European Union], OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] and UNO [United Nations organizations] and from different sources, governments, science industrial organizations, NGOs, have from different points of view given . . . strategies and measures supporting the process of sustainable development’ (Jansen, 2003, p. 231). Part of the response has been to introduce new environmental frameworks, laws, policies and approaches to address sustainability. However, a fundamental challenge for environmental professionals around the world is how to operationalize sustainability using the tools and frameworks that we already recognize, and use in practice. There have been clear and consistent messages in the environmental assessment literature that decision making for sustainable development requires a more strategic approach than what can be achieved under project-based systems – an approach that is proactive in setting directions for resource development, rather than reacting to manage the potential adverse impacts of individual development projects (CCME, 2009; Seitz et al., 2011; Partidario, 2012). Regional environmental assessment is one way to address sustainability in impact assessment and decision making for resource development, and is arguably one of the earliest ‘strategic’ responses in environmental assessment to help achieve more sustainable outcomes. Regional environmental assessment, simply defined, is assessment that adopts a regional scale of impact analysis.
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