Climate change and the Protocol on SEA
Strategic environment assessment (SEA) can be an effective tool for climate change adaptation and mitigation, by introducing climate change considerations into development planning. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that consideration of climate change impacts at the planning stage is key to boosting adaptive capacity:
“One way of increasing adaptive capacity is by introducing the consideration of climate change impacts in development planning, for example, by including adaptation measures in land-use planning and infrastructure design.” (Ref: IPCC, 2007: Summary for Policymakers . In: Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, M.L. Parry, O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson, Eds., Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, p.20.)
Indeed, SEA can help to ensure that plans and programmes take full account of climate issues within a clear, systematic process.
The Protocol on SEA requires the developers of plans and programmes to assess the likely effects of their plans and programmes on “the environment, including … climate … and the interaction among these factors” (Art. 2, para. 7, of the Protocol). The likely significant effects to be described in the environmental report should include secondary and cumulative effects (footnote to item 6 of annex IV of the Protocol). Climate change is a cumulative effect: it is caused by the build up of many actions, each of which only has a limited contribution, but which together cause serious effects.
The Protocol requires development of measures to prevent, reduce or mitigate adverse effects (item 7 of annex IV of the Protocol). Adaptation measures are unusual in that they require consideration of how climate changes are likely to impact on plans and programmes.
Article 4, Commitments
1. All Parties, taking into account their common but differentiated responsibilities and their specific national and regional development priorities, objectives and circumstances, shall:
(f) Take climate change considerations into account, to the extent feasible, in their relevant social, economic and environmental policies and actions, and employ appropriate methods, for example impact assessments, formulated and determined nationally, with a view to minimizing adverse effects on the economy, on public health and on the quality of the environment, of projects or measures undertaken by them to mitigate or adapt to climate change;