Environmental assessments of development projects focus on how a project should be implemented environmentally. To address whether, where, and what form of development is environmentally sustainable, it is important to integrate environmental considerations "upstream" or early in the decision-making process, i.e. at the policy, plan and program levels.
While the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) sets out the process for conducting the environmental assessments of projects, the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals sets out the process for reviewing these proposals to incorporate environmental considerations.
So what is an SEA? It is a proactive tool that provides decision-makers and stakeholders with information on the environmental implications of a policy, plan or program before major alternatives and directions have been chosen. An SEA is the systematic and comprehensive process of examining environmental effects. As well, most SEAs may also identify significant economic and social effects. In short, its purpose is to promote integrated decision-making.
The Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals clarifies the obligations of departments and agencies, and links the SEA process to the implementation of sustainable development strategies.
Ministers expect an SEA for a policy, plan or program proposal when the following two conditions are met:
When circumstances warrant, it is recommended that SEAs be conducted for other policy, plan or program proposals. For example, an initiative may be selected for assessment to help implement goals in sustainable development or if there are strong public concerns about possible environmental consequences.
Some of the benefits of an SEA are that it:
At CIDA, an SEA would typically be conducted for the following documents:
The SEA process at CIDA, as shown in the following process flowchart, entails four main steps:
As of January 1, 2004, the Cabinet Directive requires that federal departments and agencies prepare public statements of environmental effects upon the completion of a detailed SEA. This requirement assists in meeting the demand for increased transparency and accountability in Government of Canada operations.
The Cabinet Directive defines public statements of environmental effects as:
A statement that is made at the time that the policy, plan or program is announced, indicating the likely environmental effects of the policy, plan or program. The statement may be included as part of a general announcement by the government respecting the policy, plan or program, or it may be a stand alone document that explains the results of the strategic environmental assessment.
The CIDA SEA Handbook has been prepared to provide guidance to the Agency on the environmental assessment of policies, plans and programs. The handbook is intended for those who may be involved in the development of a policy, plan or program, i.e. Cabinet liaison staff, environment specialists, program and project analysts, and policy-makers.
The handbook guides CIDA employees through the Agency's SEA process and:
For more information on the SEA process, contact: