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Institutional Change for Sustainable Development

Robin Connor and Stephen Dovers

Institutional Change for Sustainable Development presents a flexible, accessible, yet robust conceptual framework for comprehending institutional dimensions of sustainability, emphasising the complexity of institutional systems, and highlighting the interdependence between policy learning and institutional change. This framework is applied and developed through the analysis of five significant arenas of institutional and policy change: environmental policy in the EU; New Zealand’s landmark Resource Management Act; strategic environmental assessment; emerging National Councils for Sustainable Development; and transformative property rights instruments. From these explorations, key principles for institutional change are identified, including the institutional accommodation of a sustainability discourse, the interdependence of normative and institutional change; reiteration and learning; integration in policy and practice; subsidiarity; and legal change.
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Chapter 6: Strategic Environmental Assessment: Policy Integration as Practice or Possibility?

Robin Connor and Stephen Dovers


INTRODUCTION Core to the idea of sustainability is that of policy integration, with the aim that environmental, social and economic policies are not treated in isolation but together, and where environmental dimensions achieve parity in the policy process where previously they did not. This may occur either through systematically inserting environmental considerations into existing structures and processes for the formulation of social and economic policy or through a more complete form of integration outside of those processes. The broad instruction for policy integration exists in the Rio Declaration and Agenda 21, in EU environmental policy and in all policy and statutory expressions of sustainability in many countries. However, it is, as we have already noted, proving particularly hard to implement. Strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is the most well described and long-standing proposal, and in some places actual process, for attempting such integration. The core logic of SEA stems from perceived inadequacies of project-based environmental impact assessment (EIA), a mainstay of environmental management for the last three decades.1 EIA reviews and proposes changes in the light of the environmental impacts of specific developments, and does not have purchase on cumulative impacts over space or time or the more strategic environmental issues associated with classes of development, plans or broader policy decisions. Further, project-based EIA, in the view of many commentators, does not consider the ‘no’ option sufficiently; that is, it may ameliorate impacts of predetermined developments rather than seek alternatives. While such larger-than-project considerations may be attended through sectoral or regional...

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