Strategic environmental assessments to ensure sustainability, reduce resistance to policies

  • Date: 2017-07-27
  • Source: Department of Information Services, Executive Yuan

Premier Lin Chuan today encouraged government agencies to carry out strategic environmental assessments (SEAs) when promoting major development policies that involve environmental impact risks, as it will help ensure environmental sustainability while lowering public resistance to the policies.

In remarks following the Environmental Protection Administration’s (EPA) report on the benefits and outlook of SEAs, the premier said the purpose of implementing SEAs is to build a consensus among the parties involved and reduce the likelihood of environmental impact assessment (EIA) disputes further down the line. Having a basic consensus on a policy will minimize uncertainties when the investments are made, and this model has proven to be effective in investment projects in the cement and wind power development industries.

The premier also expressed hope that businesses and competent authorities can gain a better understanding of SEAs and become more open to undergoing or implementing the procedures. Information should also be made openly available to allow for full public participation.

SEAs have been an important administrative measure since the current government took office last year. At the outset, businesses were concerned that adding SEAs to the often controversial, time-consuming EIAs would only further protract the process. But the opposite has proven true because the current EIA model only addresses disputes or conflicts from the downstream rather than the upstream end of the process. Many environmental disputes in investment projects can be averted by setting clear policy directions and principles right from the beginning, the premier said.

The EPA said in its report that the objective of SEAs is to encourage central-level competent authorities or policymaking agencies to bring environmental considerations into the policy formulation or decision-making process, providing an important reference for the EPA’s Environmental Impact Assessment Review Committee when evaluating development activities. The EPA plans to amend the Environmental Impact Assessment Act with a special chapter linking SEAs with development activities and strengthening the function of SEAs.

In the cement industry (including miners of marble, limestone and other ore raw materials), for instance, conducting an SEA would strengthen conservation of the natural ecology, promote the circular economy concept, and encourage cement manufacturers to reuse alternative raw materials, the EPA said. An SEA could provide a complete picture of the nation’s cement demands versus the volume of raw materials excavated by miners, and help the government determine whether to extend mining rights in different areas of the country or maintain the size of mining areas at current levels. After consultations with the Executive Yuan, the Ministry of Economic Affairs has proposed an SEA on the cement and mining industries to serve as a top-level guiding principle for future development projects.