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A capabilities approach to environmental assessment
The contribution of human activities to climate change is well understood. Yet the integration of climate change considerations into local decision making tools designed to govern activities affecting the environment, such as Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs), remains underdeveloped and inconsistently applied for proposed policies, programs, plans and projects. This study reviews progress across a range of 19 EIA regimes and identifies and assesses regulations and guidelines that have been established to promote the integration of climate change considerations within EIAs. A typology of levels of integration is developed to guide analysis across multiple EIA regimes. The findings identify a global and growing requirement for climate change aspects to be considered within EIAs and describe the range of ways this is done across the regimes selected. Climate change is typically concerned with the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions from proposed developments in EIAs. Fewer regimes are concerned with climate change adaptation, and in general, an integration deficit is identified for regimes where climate change is only partially considered. Examples of high integration indicate that EIA holds the potential to play a substantive role in climate change governance at project level decision making, suggesting the tools hold promise for local level climate governance. However, many domestic obstacles can militate against integration, including political, socio-technical, and economic imperatives, particularly for exemptions of sector and scope. Nevertheless, examples also indicate advances can be made through jurisprudence during the EIA review stage to establish new precedents of how climate should be considered in EIAs. Potential future research and practice directions are identified, and recommendations include the development of regulations and practice guidelines; inclusion of climate change adaptation; strengthening post-decision monitoring; application to all relevant sectors and activities; alignment with SEA; and integration across all stages of the EIA process.
Nick Simpson presentation at Focus Fortnight 2019. Environmental degradation is increasing at an alarming rate, and it is the poorest people in our world who are being most affected by it – those who have done the least to cause it. Harmful patterns of consumption and waste, driven by business, are fuelling the crisis, putting pressure on the world’s natural resources. In 2015 Tearfund published The restorative economy setting out our vision for a sustainable global economy in which extreme poverty is ended, the balance in creation is restored and inequality between rich and poor is reduced. To implement this vision in our programmatic and advocacy work, Environmental and Economic Sustainability (EES) was adopted as one of three corporate priorities. Tearfund recognises that climate change, the environment and people’s livelihoods are closely connected. We have seen how environmental degradation, conflict and climate-related shocks increase food insecurity and hunger, and threaten progress with development. Our response is to promote environmental and economic sustainability (EES). EES is about working towards a world where extreme inequality is reduced and where everyone can meet their basic needs – and flourish – within their environmental limit. EES has a wide range of elements. Some relate more to the environment, while others relate more to economic well-being (see figure 1 below). However, they are all closely intertwined and can affect each other positively or negatively. Poverty reduction must hold the environment and the economy in balance, recognising that a broken and harmful environment will have a negative impact on people’s health, livelihoods and productivity.
This article demonstrates the use of a theoretically inspired Q-methodological approach to explore and analyse stakeholders' perspectives of their public participation experience in environmental impact assessment (EIA). Q methodology is a qualitative and quantitative approach designed to explore the breadth of social perspectives on a topic. Two evaluation themes explore the procedure and the skills and capacities necessary for participation. Each theme is elaborated through selected theoretical notions drawn from planning, socio-political, and human development literatures. The methodology was applied to two EIA case studies in South Africa and a selection of consent authorities. The findings indicate a range of participation experiences in the cases which highlight and contextualise procedural and capacity constraints in the South African practice. The research also demonstrates that a theoretically inspired Q-methodological approach can be a flexible, contextually appropriate and expedient research tool for public participation evaluation in environmental planning and monitoring practices.
In response to public protests against a drastic increase in fuel prices in January 2019, the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) were joined by the army in a brutal crackdown that resulted in at least 15 deaths, 340 injured, and more than 1,000 arrests (Mwananyanda, 2019; Bearak, 2019). Just months earlier, the police were found responsible, along with the military, for the deaths of six people in the aftermath of the 2018 election, according to a commission of inquiry (Associated Press, 2018). Given the ZRP’s history as a tool of ruling-party power under former President Robert Mugabe (Hanson, 2008), how do the Zimbabwean people perceive their police? Previous Afrobarometer analysis has shown that playing a central role in Operation Murambatsvina, the state’s brutal 2005 clearing of selected urban areas in a bid to repress independent economic activity and dissent, cost the police dearly in terms of popular legitimacy (Bratton & Masunungure, 2007). This dispatch, based on Afrobarometer survey data from 1999 through mid-2018, tracks improvements, after the damaging effects of Operation Murambatsvina, in citizens’ trust in the police, perceptions of police corruption and performance in reducing crime, and support for the right to enforce the law. The latest Afrobarometer surveys were conducted before the bloody suppression of post-electoral and fuel-hike protests, and we do not contend that attitudes toward the police that prevailed in mid-2018 continue to prevail today. Instead, we raise the question whether observed improvements in public perceptions of the police could be lost through ZRP participation in political repression.
Environmental degradation is increasing at an alarming rate, and it is the poorest people in our world who are being most affected by it – those who have done the least to cause it. Harmful patterns of consumption and waste, driven by business, are fuelling the crisis, putting pressure on the world’s natural resources. In 2015 Tearfund published The restorative economy setting out our vision for a sustainable global economy in which extreme poverty is ended, the balance in creation is restored and inequality between rich and poor is reduced. To implement this vision in our programmatic and advocacy work, Environmental and Economic Sustainability (EES) was adopted as one of three corporate priorities. Tearfund recognises that climate change, the environment and people’s livelihoods are closely connected. We have seen how environmental degradation, conflict and climate-related shocks increase food insecurity and hunger, and threaten progress with development. Our response is to promote environmental and economic sustainability (EES). EES is about working towards a world where extreme inequality is reduced and where everyone can meet their basic needs – and flourish – within their environmental limit. EES has a wide range of elements. Some relate more to the environment, while others relate more to economic well-being (see figure 1 below). However, they are all closely intertwined and can affect each other positively or negatively. Poverty reduction must hold the environment and the economy in balance, recognising that a broken and harmful environment will have a negative impact on people’s health, livelihoods and productivity.
The impacts of changing climate on agriculture have consequences on livelihoods and food security. Smallholder farmers, who have heterogeneous farming systems and limited resources, compounded with multiple risks, are greatly affected. There has been limited research showing how vulnerability assessments have evolved in the smallholder agricultural sector of Africa overtime. This study systematically reviewed recent publications on vulnerability studies, especially among smallholder agricultural systems, to provide an overview of current developments in theory and practice of vulnerability in Africa over the last decade. The findings indicate an increase in vulnerability assessments undertaken across Sub Saharan Africa. Despite progress made in the application of enhanced conceptual frameworks and methods, at least four important gaps exist in the assessment process namely, inadequate engagement of local perspectives and knowledge, lack of clarity in the operationalisation of vulnerability, lack of comprehensiveness of measurement criteria employed and relevance of assessment in decision support. Notwithstanding these challenges, there exist opportunities to geographically improve assessments across Africa. In order to produce knowledge to traverse projected changes in climate systems for agricultural economies and to ensure sustainable smallholder livelihoods, we suggest that future research efforts should be oriented towards providing more information to enlighten science, policy and practice for informed decision-making and evidenced based policies. This requires evaluation of adaptation capacity as a critical aspect of vulnerability assessment to provide guidance and inform effective decision-making on allocation of scarce resources (prioritization); understand trade-offs management and implementation to build understanding among stakeholders that guide possible pathways to reduce vulnerability.
The integration of social aspects in environmental assessment (EA) remains a contested and challenging issue. This paper outlines how and why ideas from the capability approach (CA) can be useful for the enhanced conceptualization and integration of social aspects in EA, particularly those relating to well-being. A schematic outlines how perceiving impacts on stakeholder capabilities, together with associated environmental impacts, improves conceptualization of the lived condition of affected people in environmental decision-making. This includes their values, needs and aspirations providing the opportunity to minimize harm, as well as enhance potential well-being benefits of a proposed plan, project or policy. Five South African case studies illustrate how a focus on capabilities can illuminate well-being imperatives. They explore the ranking of valued functional capabilities arranged by stakeholders involved in EAs. The aggregate ranking is analysed and compared with other capabilities lists. The findings are discussed in order to elaborate theoretical notions of capabilities and provides exemplars expounding how a focus on what people have good reason to value in their environment, their capabilities, provides an advantageous understanding of their well-being.
Public participation is an integral part of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), and as such, has been incorporated into regulatory norms. Assessment of the effectiveness of public participation has remained elusive however. This is partly due to the difficulty in identifying appropriate effectiveness criteria. This research uses Q methodology to discover and analyze stakeholder’s social perspectives of the effectiveness of EIAs in the Western Cape, South Africa. It considers two case studies (Main Road and Saldanha Bay EIAs) for contextual participant perspectives of the effectiveness based on their experience. It further considers the more general opinion of provincial consent regulator staff at the Department of Environmental Affairs and the Department of Planning (DEA&DP). Two main themes of investigation are drawn from the South African National Environmental Management Act imperative for effectiveness: firstly, the participation procedure, and secondly, the stakeholder capabilities necessary for effective participation. Four theoretical frameworks drawn from planning, politics and EIA theory are adapted to public participation and used to triangulate the analysis and discussion of the revealed social perspectives. They consider citizen power in deliberation, Habermas’ preconditions for the Ideal Speech Situation (ISS), a Foucauldian perspective of knowledge, power and politics, and a Capabilities Approach to public participation effectiveness. The empirical evidence from this research shows that the capacity and contextual constraints faced by participants demand the legislative imperatives for effective participation set out in the NEMA. The implementation of effective public participation has been shown to be a complex, dynamic and sometimes nebulous practice. The functional level of participant understanding of the process was found to be significantly wide-ranging with consequences of unequal and dissatisfied stakeholder engagements. Furthermore, the considerable variance of stakeholder capabilities in the South African social context, resulted in inequalities in deliberation. The social perspectives revealed significant differences in participant experience in terms of citizen power in deliberation. The ISS preconditions are highly contested in both the Saldanha EIA case study and the DEA&DP social perspectives. Only one Main Road EIA case study social perspective considered Foucault’s notion of governmentality as a reality in EIA public participation. The freedom of control of ones environment, based on a Capabilities approach, is a highly contested notion. Although agreed with in principle, all of the social perspectives indicate that contextual and capacity realities constrain its realisation. This research has shown that Q method can be applied to EIA public participation in South Africa and, with the appropriate research or monitoring applications it could serve as a useful feedback tool to inform best practice public participation.