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John Turnpenny, Duncan Russel, Andrew Jordan, Alan Bond and William R. Sheate

Environmental problems are often thought of as rather ‘different’ to those encountered in other policy areas. Integrating environmental considerations, particularly environmental knowledge, into all areas of decision-making is often seen as a particularly significant challenge. In principle, appraisal systems offer a means to routinely address this integration challenge, but the politics of appraisal are often a significant complicating factor. This chapter reviews the literature on the ways that three appraisal mechanisms have attempted to embed environmental knowledge into decision-making processes: national policy-level impact assessment (IA), plan and programme-level strategic environmental assessment (SEA) and project-level environmental impact assessment (EIA). It reviews the opportunities for, and associated barriers to, such embedding. These are analysed at micro- (or individual), meso- (or organizational) and macro- (or socio-political context) scales. While appraisal may appear at first sight to offer a way round the vexations of addressing highly politicized environmental issues, this is not necessarily the case. Micro-, meso- and macro-scale barriers and enablers intersect across the three types of appraisal in complex ways. The politicized nature revealed at macro- and meso-scales influences, and is itself influenced by, more micro-scale issues. All three appraisal systems have also experienced significant implementation problems, and there are significant and enduring differences between how they are described in guidance documents and how they function in practice. Practices of appraisal also vary between countries. In short, there may be a small number of appraisal ‘types’, but they appear in many different national and sectoral ‘colours’.

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Davide Geneletti, Alan Bond, Duncan Russel, John Turnpenny, William Sheate and Andrew Jordan