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Title: Theory versus practice in Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)

Could the theory of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) be ahead of its time and decoupled from its practice? This paper evolved in search for this leading research question. Over the years the discourse on SEA experienced a gradual shift from the technocratic and rationalist thinking that supported its origin to more strategic approaches and integrated concepts, suggested since the mid 1990's. In this paper we share the results of our analysis of international thinking and practical experience with SEA. Results reveal that SEA practice changes very slowly when compared to advanced thinking supporting the noted shift. Current SEA practice shows to be still predominantly rooted in the logic of projects' environmental impact assessment (EIA). It is strongly bound to legal and regulatory requirements, and the motivation for its application persists being the delivery of environmental (or final) reports to meet legal obligations. Even though advanced SEA theoretical thinking claim its potential to help decisions to look forward, change mind-sets and the rationale of decision-making to meet sustainability challenges and enhance societal values, we note a weak relationship between the theoretical development of SEA and its practice. Why is this happening? Which factors explain this apparent inertia, resistance to change, inmore » the SEA practice? Results appear to demonstrate the influence of assumptions, understandings, concepts, and beliefs in the use of SEA, which in turn suggest the political sensitivity of the instrument. - Highlights: • Theoretical thinking in SEA is ahead of its time. • SEA international practice reveals inertia to move out of project’ EIA comfort zone. • World current SEA practice show similar understandings of 30 years ago. • 100 world reports and survey of practitioners supported world review. • SEA great challenge is to change paradigms into new scientific complexity theories.« less
Authors:
 [1] ;  [2] ;  [1]
  1. CEG-IST, Instituto Superior Técnico, Universidade de Lisboa, Research Group on Strategic Approaches to Environment and Sustainability (SENSU), 1049-001 Lisboa (Portugal)
  2. (Chile)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
22447486
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Environmental Impact Assessment Review; Journal Volume: 48; Other Information: Copyright (c) 2014 Elsevier Science B.V., Amsterdam, The Netherlands, All rights reserved.; Country of input: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; COMPARATIVE EVALUATIONS; DECISION MAKING; ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENTS; ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY; GLOBAL ASPECTS; LEGAL ASPECTS; PLANNING; PUBLIC OPINION; SEAS; SENSITIVITY; SUSTAINABILITY