SEA Screening of voluntary Climate Change Plans: A Story of Non-Compliant Discretion

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Screening within Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is the first critical stage involving considerations on whether an assessment is carried out or not. Although leg- islation and guidance offer practitioners a legal and logical approach to the screening process, it is inevitable that discretionary judgement takes place and will impact on the screening decision. This article examines the results of discretion involved in screening of climate change plans (CCPs) in a Danish context. These years voluntary CCPs are developed as a response to the global and local emergence of both mitigation and adap- tation, and the voluntary commitment by the local authorities is an indication of an emerging norm of climate change as an important issue.
This article takes its point of departure in the observation that SEA is not undertaken for these voluntary CCPs. The critical analysis of this phenomenon rests upon a docu- mentary study of Danish CCPs, interviews with a lawyer and ministerial key person and informal discussions between researchers, practitioners and lawyers on whether climate change plans are covered by SEA legislation and underlying reasons for the present practice.
Based on a critical analysis of mandatory SEA and/or obligation to screen CCPs ac- cording to significance criteria, the authors find that 18 out of the 48 CCPs are manda- tory to SEA and 9 would require a screening of significance and thereby potentially be followed by a SEA. In practice only 1 plan was screened and 1 was environmentally as- sessed. The legal, democratic and environmental consequences of this SEA practice are critically discussed. Hereunder the missed opportunity to use the broad environmental scope of SEA to avoid a narrow focus on energy and CO2 in CCPs, and question whether this practice in Denmark complies with the EU Directive.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Impact Assessment Review
Pages (from-to)64-69
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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