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Strategic Environmental Assessment

Integrated decision-making requires that environmental impacts be considered not only at project
level but also at the policy,8 plan and programme levels. Internationally, there is a growing consensus that
the development of strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is essential to ensure that environmental
considerations are incorporated at all levels of decision-making. Although SEA is still a domain in full
development, various countries have during the last decades developed operational SEA systems on
either a mandatory or voluntary basis.
In the transport sector, SEA proves to be particularly useful in assisting the environmental analysis and
assessment in inter-modal approaches. It helps structure and focus the environmental analysis on the key
environmental benefits and costs of each transport mode, comparing alternative options in an integrated
way and providing the relevant information needed for environmentally sound decision making.
There are now numerous research initiatives aimed at developing SEA methods and there have
been several practical applications of SEA to policies, plans and programmes at national and international
level. It is clear that especially where the evaluation of transboundary actions is concerned (e.g. the
trans-European transport networks), international co-ordination of initiatives and optimal exchange of
information is a prerequisite. The European Conference of Ministers of Transport can play a crucial role
in this regard. The objective of the present report is therefore to assist the ECMT in identifying its future
SEA policy and research strategy.
After defining the concept of SEA and clarifying the link with environmental impact assessment (EIA)
on project level, the second chapter gives a short outline of the role and existing procedures of SEA. The
third chapter gives an overview of the recent developments and the experience and practice of SEA in
the sector of transport at national and international level. This includes a summary of the assessment of
the trans-European transport networks (TEN). Chapter 4 focuses mainly on the ongoing SEA research in
the European Commission and the OECD. Based on the findings of this review, policy and research recommendations
are formulated and proposals for priority actions are made in chapter 5.