Article

A window on urban sustainability: Integration of environmental interests in urban planning through ‘decision windows’

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  • Utrecht University of Applied Sciences (Hogeschool Utrecht)
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Abstract

Sustainable urban development requires the integration of environmental interests in urban planning. Although various methods of environmental assessment have been developed, plan outcomes are often disappointing due to the complex nature of decision-making in urban planning, which takes place in multiple arenas within multiple policy networks involving diverse stakeholders. We argue that the concept of ‘decision windows’ can structure this seemingly chaotic chain of interrelated decisions. First, explicitly considering the dynamics of the decision-making process, we further conceptualized decision windows as moments in an intricate web of substantively connected deliberative processes where issues are reframed within a decision-making arena, and interests may be linked within and across arenas. Adopting this perspective in two case studies, we then explored how decision windows arise, which factors determine their effectiveness and how their occurrence can be influenced so as to arrive at more sustainable solutions. We conclude that the integration of environmental interests in urban planning is highly dependent on the ability of the professionals involved to recognize and manipulate decision windows. Finally, we explore how decision windows may be opened.

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... Van Stigt et al. (2013) share with Zahariadis' (1992) approach the idea that decision-making processes are characterized by the MSF's central concepts (problem, political, and policy stream, policy window, policyentrepreneur). However, they rename policy windows "decision windows", which they define as "a moment or relatively short period of time within a decision round, in which different interests meet and are combined, or in which issues are reframed to arrive at a shared problem definition" (van Stigt et al. 2013, 20). ...
... In contrast to Zahariadis, they concentrate exclusively on the decision-making stage. More specifically, van Stigt et al. (2013) aim at explaining decisions which (1) are reached in multiple arenas, (2) span various decision rounds, (3) result from a deliberation process, and (4) are formalized by "a body designated to govern an institutional entity" (van Stigt et al. 2013, 19). Resulting from this broad definition, they cover decision processes that range from those taking place in municipal governments to those of private actors (van Stigt et al. 2013, 19). ...
... Resulting from this broad definition, they cover decision processes that range from those taking place in municipal governments to those of private actors (van Stigt et al. 2013, 19). Due to the inclusion of such diverse decision settings, van Stigt et al. (2013) do not take into account how institutions affect decision-making. This is problematic because state-of-the-art public policy literature finds that a government's scope of action is influenced substantially by institutions (cf. ...
Chapter
Building on an extensive literature review, Herweg modifies the multiple streams framework (MSF) in order to explain agenda change and policy change in the European Union (EU). She suggests considering two coupling processes, one capturing agenda-setting (called agenda coupling) and another one capturing decision-making (called decision coupling). Next, Herweg defines functional equivalents of the MSF’s core concepts in the EU, given that the framework was derived from observations of agenda change in the United States. As one of the book’s key objectives is testing how well the MSF fares in explaining EU policy processes, she spells out the framework’s causal mechanisms and derives a set of hypotheses regarding agenda change and policy change in the EU, which guide the book’s empirical analysis.
... Several reasons can explain the seeking of actors for such windows. First, stakeholders have bounded rationality and a short attention span to generate public action (Van Stigt et al. 2013). As a result, they have difficulty in keeping a problem as a public interest. ...
... The 'entrepreneur' is willing to invest their resources, such as time, money, energy, and reputation, in return for anticipated future gain in the forms of material, purpose, or solidary benefits (Kingdon 2014). The role of these actors has been investigated in many fields, including economic policy (Ackrill and Kay 2011), climate change policy (Hermansen 2015), and urban development planning (Van Stigt et al. 2013). ...
... These results, therefore, substantiate that policy entrepreneurs are 'more than just advocates of particular solutions; they are power brokers, coalition enablers, [and] manipulators of problematic preferences and unclear technology' (Zahariadis 2016: 35). These actors involved in several decision arenas that enabled them to connect problems and solutions (see also Van Stigt et al. 2013). ...
In planning regional road development, planners often face a challenge to reconcile various interests and interpretations on the ultimate goals which complicate the discussion decision-making processes. This situation is defined as strategic ambiguity. Standard procedures for impact assessment are mostly ineffective at offering solutions that satisfy all involved stake-holders. This paper analyses the situation by using a Multiple Stream Framework (MSF) approach. MSF identifies three factors, labelled "streams', i.e. the problems, the solutions, and the politics streams, that open sustainability 'windows' for integrating different interests. This paper investigates the opening of such windows in two highway projects in Indonesia. Both projects showed a high ambition for achieving environmental sustainability. In these cases, the window was opened through (i) recognition of the problems and the solutions by the active involvement of stakeholders, (ii) coalitions with influential stakeholders for political supports, and (iii) mobilization of resources and policy networks by the stakeholders. It is concluded that planners might influence the streams to outline decision-making processes and to implement environmental impact assessments effectively. ARTICLE HISTORY
... De tal modo, um fator importante para o crescimento populacional é a mudança de uma população predominantemente rural, baseada em meios de produção agrícola, para uma população urbana. Atualmente, de acordo com Stigt et al. (2013), mais de 54% da população mundial vive em cidades. Trata-se de uma marca que implica em mudanças significativas sobre o modelo de vida humana. ...
... O crescimento urbano global é uma tendência indissociável da realidade e, por isso, o tema requer atenção para a construção de planos e estratégias de longo prazo, capazes de lidar com o aumento da população global e a expansão das cidades (Glaeser, 2011). Assim, se alinhada com estratégias de sustentabilidade, a força das cidades pode ser também uma grande aliada de um desenvolvimento equilibrado, mitigando os efeitos socioambientais negativos causados pela sua expansão (Stigt et al., 2013). ...
... A partir deste cenário, o tema das cidades sustentáveis vem ganhando força globalmente, o que se evidenciou com a realização da Habitat III -Conferência das Nações Unidas sobre Habitação e Desenvolvimento Urbano Sustentável realizada em Quito, no Equador, em 2016 -e com a publicação do relatório final da conferência, intitulado de Nova Agenda Urbana, o qual define ações estratégicas para cidades construírem um caminho para o desenvolvimento sustentável. De tal modo, o planejamento urbano como disciplina e ferramenta de estruturação do meio urbano e das cidades, vem ganhando força em discussões na academia, no mercado, na sociedade civil e no setor público (Fitzgerald, O'Doherty, Moles, & O'Regan, 2012;Stigt et al., 2013;Childers, Picket, Grove, Ogden, & Whitmer, 2014). ...
... De tal modo, um fator importante para o crescimento populacional é a mudança de uma população predominantemente rural, baseada em meios de produção agrícola, para uma população urbana. Atualmente, de acordo com Stigt et al. (2013), mais de 54% da população mundial vive em cidades. Trata-se de uma marca que implica em mudanças significativas sobre o modelo de vida humana. ...
... O crescimento urbano global é uma tendência indissociável da realidade e, por isso, o tema requer atenção para a construção de planos e estratégias de longo prazo, capazes de lidar com o aumento da população global e a expansão das cidades (Glaeser, 2011). Assim, se alinhada com estratégias de sustentabilidade, a força das cidades pode ser também uma grande aliada de um desenvolvimento equilibrado, mitigando os efeitos socioambientais negativos causados pela sua expansão (Stigt et al., 2013). ...
... A partir deste cenário, o tema das cidades sustentáveis vem ganhando força globalmente, o que se evidenciou com a realização da Habitat III -Conferência das Nações Unidas sobre Habitação e Desenvolvimento Urbano Sustentável realizada em Quito, no Equador, em 2016 -e com a publicação do relatório final da conferência, intitulado de Nova Agenda Urbana, o qual define ações estratégicas para cidades construírem um caminho para o desenvolvimento sustentável. De tal modo, o planejamento urbano como disciplina e ferramenta de estruturação do meio urbano e das cidades, vem ganhando força em discussões na academia, no mercado, na sociedade civil e no setor público (Fitzgerald, O'Doherty, Moles, & O'Regan, 2012;Stigt et al., 2013;Childers, Picket, Grove, Ogden, & Whitmer, 2014). ...
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The sustainable development of cities is a crucial factor for the quality of life of citizens. Currently, more than 54% of the global population resides in cities. Therefore, this work investigated the importance of urban planning as a sustainability tool for structuring the urban environment. Also, it reflects the need for planning and cohesion of the various pieces that make up the good functioning of the city body, to promote the balance between different variables in the sustainable development of urban space. For the construction of this article, qualitative research was carried out with specialists in the theme of cities, from several areas of knowledge, bringing. As a result a systemic view on the role of urban planning in the development of more sustainable cities.
... Academics have begun to address this challenge through engagements with multiple stakeholders that examine trade-offs, feasibility, and effects in the short and long term 44 . These engagements aim to increase communication between researchers and policymakers working on a range of time-sensitive projects and programmes 45,46 , using evidence to respond to local concerns, address a salient issue at the right time 47,48 , and tell a persuasive and relatable story with people's lives at its centre 43,49 . In a systematic review of barriers to and facilitators of policymakers' use of evidence 1 , the most frequent needs were to increase the dissemination and availability of research findings, to make them as clear and relevant as possible (particularly to users with limited experience of research methods and their interpretation), and to encourage collaboration between policymakers and researchers. ...
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... According to (Sung & Oh 2011), TOD is 'a planning technique that aims to reduce automobile use and promote the use of public transit and human-powered transportation modes through high density, mixed use, environmentally-friendly development within areas of walking distance from transit centres' . Nowadays, environmental objectives should be simultaneously considered in the decision-making procedure, because environmental issues are very important for our world (Campbell 1996;van Stigt et al. 2013). In this study, Green urbanism concept is considered as an environmental objective. ...
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Sustainable development is a vital and challenging factor for managing urban growth smartly. This factor contains three main components, namely economic growth, ecological protection, and social justice. Green Transit-Oriented Development (GTOD) is a consummate planning approach in line with those components. Implementation of GTOD in an urban area is underpinned by its quantification. Therefore, a quantitative spatial index based on several indicators related to TOD and Green urbanism concepts should be developed. In this study, Geo-spatial Information Science (GIS) and Hierarchical Fuzzy Inference System (HFIS) were employed to calculate the indicators and aggregate them, respectively. In order to showcase the feasibility of the proposed method, it was implemented in a case study area in City of Tehran, Iran. The result of this method is an integrated spatial GTOD index, which measures the neighborhoods’ GTOD levels. These measurements specify weaknesses and strengths of neighborhoods’ factors. Therefore, this index helps decision makers to plan neighborhoods based on land use and public transit views. Additionally, the HFIS method helps decision makers to consider criteria and indicators with their inherent uncertainties and aggregate them with much fewer rules. For evaluating the results, the developed GTOD index was assessed with municipal action planning and attraction maps. According to the outcomes of the assessment, it is concluded that the proposed method is adequately robust and efficient for smart and sustainable urban planning.
... Dabla-Noris et al. (2012) observe that closing Africa's infrastructure deficiencies in terms of coverage and access would increase per capita growth and economic performance by 2.2 percentage points. Countries like Mauritius in North Africa, which have gone through transformation in infrastructure provision, have realized the economic gains associated with an innovative shift from traditional urban service provision strategies to those that embrace the new horizons of demand for smart, climate compatible and knowledge-based city services (Khadaroo and Seetanah, 2008;Holt, 2012; urban planning functions and decision-making spheres (McRobbie, 2002;Mudambi, 2008;van Stigt, 2013;Connelly et al., 2013), but also responsiveness along gender and social group characteristics with informal Anttiroiko et al., 2013). Such a shift not only requires the promotion of economic restructuring for integration of settlements inadvertently marginalized (Abbott, 2002;Winayanti and Lang, 2004;Harrison, 2006;Mayer, 2009;Buyana, 2012). ...
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Urban service delivery in cities of Africa is undergoing transformation in the quest to improve access and coverage while reducing the urban infrastructure deficit. This is mainly signaled by the gradual shift to integrated urban planning functions and decision-making spheres within the institutional setup of city authorities. This paper builds on a triangulated study in Kampala city to argue that urban planning functions should not only be integrated but also responsive to gender needs, as an inclusive pathway to sustained provision of infrastructure. The study found out that the utilization of infrastructure and the associated aspects of service delivery are socially preconditioned by socioeconomic preferences that are based on gender differentials in mobility needs. Women preferred infrastructure that offers personal security, flexible mobility, hygiene and physical comfort, whereas men were primarily concerned about alternative travel routes for punctuality, safety while on the road, convenience and quicker connectivity to public utilities. But planning at city level has neither integrated nor transcended the physical, economic and environmental accounts of infrastructure and service provision to include gender responsiveness. This ultimately leads to delivery outcomes that are less aligned to variations in women's compared to men's end-user expectations. The paper concludes with a step-wise framework for conceptualizing how urban planning can be gender responsive together with examples on real-life applications in the context of African cities.
... That is, an environmental assessment process which is better integrated into the decision system is needed. This is not a new finding (see, for example, Warner, 1996; van Stigt et al., 2013; Sánchez, 2014) but this analysis does help to clarify the specific problems that might arise through the use of a rational-technical model which assumes decision making delivers legitimacy, but cannot guarantee it. Sustainability Appraisal in England is different from project EIA. ...
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Game theory provides a useful theoretical framework to examine the decision process operating in the context of environmental assessment, and to examine the rationality and legitimacy of decision-making subject to Environmental Assessment (EA). The research uses a case study of the Environmental Impact Assessment and Sustainability Appraisal processes undertaken in England. To these are applied an analytical framework, based on the concept of decision windows to identify the decisions to be assessed. The conditions for legitimacy are defined, based on game theory, in relation to the timing of decision information, the behaviour type (competitive, reciprocal, equity) exhibited by the decision maker, and the level of public engagement; as, together, these control the type of rationality which can be brought to bear on the decision. Instrumental rationality is based on self-interest of individuals, whereas deliberative rationality seeks broader consensus and is more likely to underpin legitimate decisions. The results indicate that the Sustainability Appraisal process, conducted at plan level, is better than EIA, conducted at project level, but still fails to provide conditions that facilitate legitimacy. Game theory also suggests that Sustainability Appraisal is likely to deliver ‘least worst’ outcomes rather than best outcomes when the goals of the assessment process are considered; this may explain the propensity of such ‘least worst’ decisions in practise. On the basis of what can be learned from applying this game theory perspective, it is suggested that environmental assessment processes need to be redesigned and better integrated into decision making in order to guarantee the legitimacy of the decisions made.
... Additionally, the relevance of the 'facilitator' of a planning process, as considered in communication and collaboration planning theories (Lawrence 2000), is also reflected in some analysed process guides where support is provided to the person undertaking this role. The concept of 'decision windows' as developed by Stigt et al. (2013), meaning critical moments in which different interests are combined, can also be supported by sanitation process guides. In this sector, a 'decision window' might occur when structural institutional reforms are under way, when priority and budget are allocated to sanitation, or simply because a proactive person joins an organization. ...
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... Cumbersome negotiations or even stalemate as a consequence of having to strike a balance between a myriad of incommensurate quality aspects can be avoided by discussing types of urban environment representing a holistic combination of qualities, rather than considering all individual quality aspects one by one. Broad participation may result in endless discussions (Kaza, 2006), yet involvement of the public in the early stages of planning in a genuine bottom-up way is known to produce very satisfying results (see, e.g., Van Stigt et al., 2013b). Finally, adaptive plans risk losing spatial coherence as a result of fickle spatial policies. ...
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... Although the dilemmas have been known, and more or less been taken for granted for decades, they have become oppressive due to the recent economic downturn. A window of opportunity for institutional change (Van Stigt et al., 2013)? ...
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... In this sense, it is a theme related to the capacity of articulation and cooperation between different actors of a company, for the discussion of issues of common interest. Some researchers [127][128][129] have this same view. ...
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... Academics have begun to address this challenge through engagements with multiple stakeholders that examine trade-offs, feasibility, and effects in the short and long term 44 . These engagements aim to increase communication between researchers and time-poor policymakers 45,46 , using evidence to respond to local concerns, address a salient issue at the right time 47,48 , and tell a persuasive and relatable story with people's lives at its centre 43,49 . In a systematic review of barriers to and facilitators of policymakers' use of evidence 1 , the most frequent needs were to increase the dissemination and availability of research findings, to make them as clear and relevant as possible (particularly to users with limited experience of research methods and their interpretation), and to encourage collaboration between policymakers and researchers. ...
Article
Background: Environmental improvement is a priority for urban sustainability and health and achieving it requires transformative change in cities. An approach to achieving such change is to bring together researchers, decision-makers, and public groups in the creation of research and use of scientific evidence. Methods: This article describes the development of a programme theory for Complex Urban Systems for Sustainability and Health (CUSSH), a four-year Wellcome-funded research collaboration which aims to improve capacity to guide transformational health and environmental changes in cities. Results: Drawing on ideas about complex systems, programme evaluation, and transdisciplinary learning, we describe how the programme is understood to “work” in terms of its anticipated processes and resulting changes. The programme theory describes a chain of outputs that ultimately leads to improvement in city sustainability and health (described in an ‘action model’), and the kinds of changes that we expect CUSSH should lead to in people, processes, policies, practices, and research (described in a ‘change model’). Conclusions: Our paper adds to a growing body of research on the process of developing a comprehensive understanding of a transdisciplinary, multiagency, multi-context programme. The programme theory was developed collaboratively over two years. It involved a participatory process to ensure that a broad range of perspectives were included, to contribute to shared understanding across a multidisciplinary team. Examining our approach allowed an appreciation of the benefits and challenges of developing a programme theory for a complex, transdisciplinary research collaboration. Benefits included the development of teamworking and shared understanding and the use of programme theory in guiding evaluation. Challenges included changing membership within a large group, reaching agreement on what the theory would be ‘about’, and the inherent unpredictability of complex initiatives.
... Consequently, SEA is criticized for being an exercise to justify decisions already made, resulting in major paperwork but only minor changes in decision-making ( Keysar and Steinemann, 2002). Stigt discusses the challenge of attaining sustainable urban development is the integration of environmental interests in the urban planning process or, rather, the decision-making process that underlies urban planning (van Stigt et al., 2013). Lawrence argues that the EIA process is often autocratic and technically biased, poorly designed to match contextual characteristics, and weak in fostering creativity, in facilitating dialog, and in appreciating the political nature of planning ( Lawrence, 2000). ...
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Despite numerous efforts across the years, the wetlands are still among the most threatened ecosystems around the world, since 1700 CE, 87% of global wetland area might have been lost. The Convention on Biological Diversity and Ramsar Convention established agreements to deal with this issue. In this context, policies can assist the decision making to meet those international agreements during the development process. In this sense, Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of plans, programs, and policies contribute to verify actions implications and possible alternatives for promoting environmentally sustainable development. Here we developed a conceptual and general framework to insert the wetlands ecosystems effectively in the SEA developing process. The designed framework has five steps: (i) wetlands and developing process, (ii) priority wetlands and their assessment, (iii) evaluating impacts on wetlands and identifying sustainable alternatives, (iv) alternatives comparing and (v) strategic action monitoring and follow up. The conceptual structure has a great potential for wetlands protection and safeguards their ecosystem services, contributing in this way for the attendance of Conservation on Biological Diversity and the Ramsar Convention strategic goals at the local level. It is necessary that the administrative levels take as a premise the need for promoting wetlands conservation and provide resources for the application of proposed approaches related to SEA.
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Impact assessment (IA) tools are targeted at decisions and decision-making in theory and in practice. Often described as decision support instruments, most IA are driven by the grand purpose of providing for informed decision-making. In practice this often means IA tends to be more concerned with the information to be provided than with the outcomes of IA and its relevance to the decision(s), and decision-makers(s) to which it should be targeted. Decisions and decision-making are, however, understood in many different ways, and actors involved in decision-making may therefore act widely different with diverse results. Therefore, distinguishing which decisions, and to which decision-makers IA are targeted at, is arguably indispensable to enhance IA effectiveness. Based on an overview of decision-making theory, this paper searches for the understanding of decision and decision-making in IA by exploring how it is conceived in guidance documents. Guidance documents have a prominent role in defining IA practice, and the explicit and implicit recognition of decision-making in guidance is therefore relevant to investigate in order to understand how IA relates to decision-making. With a focus on guidance documents related to the European Union Directive on environmental assessment of plans and programmes, this paper scrutinises four guidance documents and discusses the implications of the identified understandings of decision-making to the practice of IA. The key finding of this paper is that legislation-oriented guidance documents appear to miss to reflect the different forms of decision-making, and primarily depicts decision-making as a single, often timeless and faceless moment. The implications for practice are discussed including reflection on how to describe the nature of decision-making in guidance documents.
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During the process of building the sustainable development paradigm in the last four decades, the incorporation and integration of the urban dimension has been gaining importance, while it has been acknowledged that the majority of the most serious environmental threats are exacerbated by the high density and activity of urban life and its consumption patterns. Thus, different methods, techniques and instruments for urban sustainable assessment that seek to figure out how cities can become more sustainable have emerged. Among which, indicators are increasingly used as they provide a solid foundation for decision making, at all levels, and contributes to the building of sustainable self-regulated systems in which development and environment can be integrated. The present paper builds on the background of the recent movement towards the usage of indicators by introducing a carefully chosen set for quantifying sustainability performance at the urban level and into the planning process. By moving indicators from the ex-post evaluation of cities’ problems to an ex-ante stage in which they can be operationalized as planning tools, this piece of work provides a contribution to traditional urban planning instruments and moves a step forward with regard to the construction of sustainability. In this framework indicators become key instruments in urban analysis, the design of policies, strategies, actions and programs for sustainable urban development. The paper starts by introducing the methodology and the urban sustainable indicators system for planning. This model then is tested and applied in a case study based on Mexico City's metabolism. Finally, the study provides a series of reflections on how successful strategies to enhance the long-term sustainability of cities can be developed by introducing sustainability indicators into the urban planning process.
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Learning, particularly transformative learning, is an established feature of environmental planning, management and assessment. Nevertheless, very often it loses its prominence both as a process and as a goal. This paper explores the extent to which strategic environmental assessment (SEA) can facilitate learning at an organisational and individual level, and ultimately, achieve effectiveness. It is based on the assumption that SEA effectiveness can be achieved if policy, programme and plan-making are oriented towards both the continuous improvement of decision-making and the associated implementation processes. Set within the context of the European SEA Directive, the learning dimension of SEA is explored in Germany, Italy and the UK. This is done through a framework for analysis based on a review of the organisational and individual learning literatures. The research indicates that, owing to their unique contextual and methodological influences, the three countries developed distinct approaches to SEA, with differences in the skills and knowledge needed to improve its learning outcomes. Based on the research findings, the paper identifies what further research is needed to improve SEA's learning outcomes and achieve more effective SEA practice.
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The expectations of strategic environmental assessment (SEA) regarding the integration of environmental and sustainability concerns into policy-making are high. Although evidence of its impact up to now is only indirect and, more important, appears to be modest, more attention has to be paid to the fact that the term ‘impact’ can be interpreted in different ways and to the importance of context in impact analysis. In this paper, we propose an assessment framework in which these aspects are explicitly addressed. To illustrate and verify the practical value of our framework we analyse four Dutch SEA case studies.
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This paper outlines the main findings from case studies analysed within the Practical Evaluation Tools for Urban Sustainability (PETUS) project, about the practical use of tools for sustainable urban development in European cities. The paper looks across 60 case studies and identifies the main drivers for using tools, the benefits gained by using them and discusses why, in general, there is limited use of available tools. The main question raised by the PETUS project was, `why are so few tools for urban sustainability being used, when so many are available?' Recent years have shown a growing number of theoretical tools to assess and evaluate urban sustainability. However, experience also shows that only a few of such tools are being used in practice. The paper outlines the motivations for actors to use tools, the benefits achieved and the barriers for using tools. From this, different possibilities for improvements in the use of tools are discussed.
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The focus of this paper is on the complex, integrated decision-support tools (DSTs) for sustainable urban development. The main goal is to identify the principal strengths and weaknesses of these tools while considering the broader issue of how an integrated urban decision-support system can be developed (or existing tools improved) that will integrate a wide range of criteria including socio-economic and environmental aspects, plus stakeholder participation, into the decision-making process. To achieve this goal, a relatively large number of various DSTs were first identified. These tools were then analysed using a set of criteria developed specifically for that purpose. For each criterion, a description of a perceived ideal DST is provided and then used when analysing existing DSTs. Finally, it is concluded that modern integrated DSTs for sustainable urban development, despite increased complexity and flexibility, still need to be improved to provide better support in the associated decision-making processes. The recommended areas for future improvements include higher levels of DST integration, introduction of the systematic risk and uncertainty modelling, wider use of the ranking and optimisation methodologies, further development of the detailed impact assessment models, wider and better use of advanced visualisation techniques, improved support for group decision making and communication and more systematic calibration and validation of the models.
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In a network, parties have different interests and are interdependent. This hampers collective decision making. If, in such a network, a policy analysis is made to support the decision making, the findings from this analysis are likely to lack authority. For a policy analysis to be authoritative and to contribute to collective decision making, a process of interaction between the analyst and the parties concerned should be organized. This is called process management. This article presents a number of guidelines for such a process. They are based on two case studies into the use of policy analysis in networks.
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A proper integration of strategic environmental assessment (SEA) into policy-making processes is considered critical to the success of SEA. Most of the work in SEA seems to be based on the assumption that the provision of rational information will help improve decision-making, but the literature points to other characteristics of real decision-making processes, including cognitive limitations, behavioural biases, ambiguity and variability of preferences and norms, distribution of decision-making over actors and in time, and the notion of decision-making as a process of learning and negotiation between multiple actors. All these are very relevant at the planning and policy level. In the policy sciences literature, some approaches may also hold promise for SEA, such as supporting an open learning process, variety in ways to support and roles to play in these processes, and paying more attention to the actor configuration and distribution of interests, as a basis for finding implementable and effective solutions to policy problems. The elaboration of these ideas holds promises as well as challenges for SEA.
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An integrated methodology has been designed to assist sustainable decision-making processes managed by spatial planners and developers in public authorities and the private sector. It emphasises public participation at early stages of spatial planning for the integration of sustainability criteria. It also acts as an integrated decision-support system for use at the plans and programmes approval stages to validate and complement strategic environmental assessment. A toolbox using state-of-the-art planning and geographic information system-based methods is complemented by five modules – conceptual models, system indicators, multi-criteria analysis, database management and geographic information system framework – which may be integrated in stakeholder participation tools throughout the implementation process. The approach therefore facilitates coherent responses to the following questions: What is the best way to design an integrated sustainable planning system? What is the best method to integrate sustainability criteria at early stages of planning? How can sustainability yardsticks successfully integrate environmental, social and economical aspects? Finally, how can stakeholder interest and participation in the planning process be stimulated? A scenario-based case-study of spatial planning in urban and peri-urban areas of Vitoria-Gasteiz, the capital of the Basque autonomous region in Spain, is chosen to report on the system validation.
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Strategic environmental assessment (SEA) literature has insistently drawn attention to the lack of a precise definition for SEA. This process of conceptual evolution continues, suggesting that it is hard to conceptually summarize the practice of SEA and that, at the same time, there is an urgent need to conceptualize it to give it a sense. The debate on a SEA definition is not just a theoretical matter: it has very relevant practical consequences for the SEA practice and its evaluation. The purpose of this article is to contribute to this debate by showing that behind the evolution of the SEA definition there is a discussion on the rationality of decision-making. According to that hypothesis, the evolution of the SEA definition could then be explained as an adjustment of the initial aim of SEA to the actual rationality realm of strategic decision-making. The clarification of the rationality of decision-making as a structuring element of the SEA definition is considered as the basis for a deliberative and institutional SEA definition.
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Shifts from government to governance in the environmental policy domain have been observed by many authors. However, the question arises as to whether these shifts are apparent in all environmental policy sub-domains. And which explanations are to be given for observed differences in specific sub-domains? In this article we introduce insights from policy science literature on drivers of and barriers to shifts towards governance, providing an analytical framework to illustrate and explain the changes in environmental policy in general, and in noise policy specifically. Dutch environmental policy in general has changed distinctly from previous decades: from high profile execution by public institutions and the use of coercive policy instruments into an increasing reliance on dialogue, networks and social inclusion. Dutch noise policy, however, is still state dominated and its legislative approach seems to better fit the dominant style of government. In this paper, we show that while shifts in governance and a changing role of the state are evident for environmental policy, as a whole, similar shifts are not seen in noise policy. The main barriers to such a shift are actors with a vested interest in maintaining the current policy arrangements and the institutional settings which are not considered problematic in achieving national and municipal goals. In addition, drivers for change such as severe incidents which have resulted in shifts in environmental governance, were largely absent from the noise policy domain.
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This article contributes to bridging the gap between theories on Impact Assessment and theories on (complex) decision making. Impact Assessment theories assume that causal impact analysis may provide information that contributes to better decision making in complex situations. These are situations where alternative courses of action have complex ramifications for impact. However, so-called rational knowledge is often available through Impact Assessment, but not used in decision making. Explanations can be found in two kinds of logic characterizing collective decision making. First, societal problems are complex and, therefore, multi-rational. Providing more information does not help to reduce complexity or to overcome multi-rationality. Second, the increasing need to co-operate results in high process dynamics, where irrationality and emotions prevail and information is gathered to underpin these ‘irrationalities’. At present, Impact Assessment seems to be insufficient to attain the societal transitions that may be necessary for genuine sustainable development. The authors argue that Impact Assessment should incorpor ate tenable assertions about the logic of the decision-making processes in which the assessments should be used. Only, perhaps, in such circumstances can a more effective process based on multi-rational argumentation and plausibility be achieved. It is the authors' conviction that an improved understanding of multi-rational processes can contribute significantly to new types of Impact Assessment that more effectively support sustainable development.
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Problem: Despite the widespread availability of geographic information systems (GIS) in local government, there is some evidence that the potential of GIS as a planning tool is not being fully exploited. While obstacles to GIS implementation in local government have been investigated, most of these investigations are either dated or do not focus on planning applications. Purpose: We aim to add to the limited literature on the current barriers hindering GIS use in public planning agencies. We also offer some insights into how to mitigate these barriers and help planning agencies move beyond using GIS simply for routine tasks of data access and mapmaking. Methods: We analyzed responses to a 2007 web-based survey of 265 practitioners in Wisconsin's public planning agencies and follow-up interviews with 20 practitioners we conducted in 2008. Results and conclusions: Planning departments still face a range of technological, organizational, and institutional barriers in using GIS. Training, funding, and data issues appear to be the most significant barriers preventing greater use of GIS for planning purposes, suggesting that organizational and institutional issues are more pertinent than technological barriers. Our literature review indicates that the barriers to GIS use in local government are similar to those of the past, but not identical. Furthermore, our observations indicate that, in general, practitioners are not aware of the full potential of GIS and planning support systems (PSS). Takeaway for practice: Increased funding alone is not likely to move a planning agency beyond routine applications of GIS. Improved access to training that is geared toward the planning process and planning applications may help alleviate many barriers planners face in using GIS in general and in incorporating more sophisticated GIS functions in their work.
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Urban population has been increasing and it is estimated to reach 70% of the total population in the world by 2050. Governments are facing greater challenges every time in providing inhabitants with a good quality of life in their cities. Many cities around the world have developed sustainable urban development plans for leading their urbanization process towards a desired status of urban sustainability. Urban sustainability indicators have been selected as main elements for communicating the status of the practice, which help to determine how successful strategies and policies enforced have been in the attainment of sustainability goals. Different practices use different indicators according to their particular needs, and these have been selected under different methods. However, whilst there are cases where urban sustainability indicators are effectively in use, the experiences gained from each practice have not been shared and used for the development of new urban development plans and for improving the decision-making process in the selection of indicators. This paper examines 9 different practices and proposes a comparative basis, namely, International Urban Sustainability Indicators List (IUSIL), for allowing the better understanding of drivers and goals of each practice and identifying under what circumstances various practices selected their indicators. Discussions made on the comparative analysis are categorized in four different dimensions: environmental, economic, social and governance. Research results show how comparative basis can lead to knowledge sharing between different practices, which can be used to guide the selection of indicators of sustainable urbanization plans and improve the effective communication of the status of practices. The study not only reveals how different indicators are selected but also suggests the need for consistent processes of choosing indicators based on the benchmarks obtained from best practices.
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Evaluation has a fundamental role in complex public choices aimed at obtaining a ranking among alternative options and designing new solutions. Starting from this perspective, the so-called 'integrated assessments' -- multidimensional tools for a dialogue among different approaches and fields of knowledge -- play a privileged role as a suitable decision support tool for public participation at a territorial and urban planning level. Taking into account the concept of 'integrated assessment', the paper introduces the approach of 'integrated spatial assessment' for territorial and urban planning. In recent years spatial analysis combined with multicriteria and multigroup methods has been used to support evaluation, especially in the field of land-use planning. By exploring the potentials of the integrated spatial assessment (ISA), it is possible to implement a multidimensional value-focused way of thinking, conceived as a path open to a 'creative' decision-making process.
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This paper presents the results of research which evaluated the performance of strategic environmental assessment (SEA) practice in South Africa in order to develop understanding of how SEA functions within a developing country with a voluntary SEA system. The research applied a combination of methods in a mixed research strategy, including a macro level survey of the SEA system together with case study reviews exploring micro level application. Three main ‘system features’ emerged, namely expansion of voluntary practice, diversity in practice and general ineffectiveness. The results also highlight a number of ‘application features’ such as a lack of focus due to an inability to deal with the concepts of ‘sustainability’ and ‘significance’, as well as poor understanding and integration with decision-making processes. Moreover, it emerged that none of the case studies seem to have conducted an ‘assessment’ per se, but rather provided a framework for strategic decision-making. The paper puts forward a number of interrelated explanations for these system and application features. In a parallel to the fable of the ‘emperor's new clothes’, SEA in South Africa appears to be regarded as the answer to all environmental problems, whilst being ineffective in practice.
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The book is useful, easy to read and a good addition to the references list of practitioners who use strategic environmental assessment as a day-to-day tool. - Eagle Bulletin. Analytical Strategic Environmental Assessment (ANSEA) is an insightful new approach to environmental evaluation, based on decision theory, policy analysis and environmental considerations. These concepts, though not new in their own fields of application, are combined and integrated in an innovative fashion. This book presents recent research on the implementation of the ANSEA approach which aims to ensure environmental values are properly integrated into the decision-making process. © Pietro Caratti, Holger Dalkmann and Rodrigo Jiliberto, 2004. All rights reserved.
Strategic Environmental Assessment aims to incorporate environmental and sustainability considerations into strategic decision making processes, such as the formulation of policies, plans and programmes. In order to be effective, the assessment must take the real decision making process as the departure point. Existing SEA approaches are frequently tailored after an EIA model conceived from a rational perspective on decision making. However, there are good reasons to assume that most strategic decision making processes are characterised by a bounded rationality. Furthermore, the predictability of environmental consequences generally becomes weaker at strategic levels than at the project level and complexity increases in terms of the numbers of actors involved in the decision. This paper examines various theoretical perspectives to decision making and discusses the implications for decision support in general and SEA in particular. The authors argue that the design of the SEA must be more sensitive to the real characteristics of the decision making context.
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Transit-oriented development (TOD) and green urbanism have gained attention as development models for charting a more sustainable urban future. These two built forms, however, are often dealt with separately, as distinct topics. This paper explores synergies that are created when neighbourhoods are designed as both green and transit-oriented and how ‘Green TOD’ can reduce a project's environmental footprint more than each strategy can achieve individually. Experiences with Green TODs are reviewed for urban regeneration projects in Sweden, Germany and Australia. These projects optimally combine sustainable building, energy and waste practices with high-quality transit access. ‘Green’ transit-based urbanism can substantially shrink the environmental footprint associated with car-oriented suburban development. We estimate that carbon emissions and energy consumption of Green TOD can be nearly 30% less than that of conventional development. Synergies that are created by combining TOD and green urbanism include increased densities, which promote transit usage, conserve heating/cooling expense and enable waste reuse techniques contingent on high volumes; mixed land uses, which promote non-motorised transportation and match the differing heat and energy needs of commercial and residential uses to enable maximum reuse of waste heat; reduced impervious parking surfaces replaced by increased open space and community gardens; opportunities for generating solar power for use in buildings from photovoltaics (PVs) atop rail-stop canopies and remote parking structures; and using renewable energy/fuels produced from the built environment to power transit vehicles.
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The aim of this article is to discuss direct effectiveness of SEA following the framework of the SEA Directive of the European Union in order to recommend measures to increase it. In the article an analytical framework for analysing SEA effectiveness is developed taking aspects of planning theory and social learning, strategicness, integratedness and timing of SEA into account. The framework is applied on the SEA concept of the European Union and put in the context of SEA and spatial planning in Austria. Finally, recommendations are made to enhance SEA effectiveness by different measures addressing different aspects of the SEA system and the SEA implementation in planning processes, such as the abandonment of screening, the advancement of SEA ‘ownership’ by planners and the reflection of a rational-collaborative SEA and planning model, as well as the ways environmental objectives and the appraisal of alternatives are implemented in a planning and SEA process.
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Following the discourse about sustainable development based on the Brundtland Commission's report and the processes in the UN Committee on Environment and Development, a sustainable urban development would require considerably more ambitious policies than today in order to limit energy consumption, reduce pollution and protect natural areas and arable land. Re-use of urban areas and more effective utilization of building sites is a possible strategy to this end. However, continuous growth in the building stock will make it increasingly difficult to bring urban development in wealthy countries within the frames of what is ecologically sustainable and equitable in a global perspective. Planning for a sustainable urban development must be oriented towards long-term goals and utilize knowledge about the environmental consequences of different solutions, but should not be based solely on means-ends rationality. Rather than aiming at consensus including all stakeholder groups, planning for sustainability should facilitate alliance-building among those population groups who can support the basic equity and environmental values of a sustainable development.
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The urban design process must be transformed and improved if various stakeholders wish to create sustainable urban environments. Although the UK Government and other influential bodies have written many reports recently about the intimate relationship between urban design and sustainability, much more needs to be done to demonstrate how, when and where sustainability is embedded in the urban design process. There is also a need to understand who the decision makers are within this process and what influences their decisions. A clear picture of how the urban design decision-making process works from start to finish, and how sustainability is embedded within this process, can help to achieve the goals and objectives of urban sustainability in the 24-hour city. This paper begins by defining urban design and describing the urban design process, highlighting the major stages and the general tasks involved at each stage. Sustainability and urban sustainable development are briefly discussed next. The final section indicates, through case study research comprising the VivaCity2020 project, where sustainability may be embedded within the urban design process.
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This paper employs John Kingdon's [1984. Agendas, Alternatives and Public Policies. Little Brown, Boston] “multiple streams” framework to analyse the sudden move from overgenerous grandfathering to tight caps and auctioning within the German emissions trading regime in the first half of 2007. By bringing together empirical evidence from interviews and official documents the following question is addressed: how completely does Kingdon's framework explain this political turn? The opening of a “policy window” can be demonstrated and Kingdon's theory concisely captures important aspects of this process. At the same time, however, the findings imply that a number of relevant factors are not sufficiently considered by the theory, most notably the influence of multi-level governance structures, learning processes, and networks. This demonstrates that the multiple streams approach on its own is not sufficient to fully understand the case study example. Hence, for a better understanding of policy change it is suggested that scholars need to evaluate the potential for amending and combining Kingdon's model with other explanatory approaches.
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Evaluating the substantive effectiveness of strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is vital in order to know to what extent the tool fulfills its purposes and produces expected results. However, the studies that have evaluated the substantive effectiveness of SEA produce varying outcomes as regards the tool's contribution to decision-making and have used a variety of approaches to appraise its effectiveness. The aim of this article is to discuss the theoretical concept of SEAsubstantive effectiveness and to present a new approach that can be applied for evaluation studies. The SEA effectiveness evaluation framework that will be presented is composed of concepts of, and approaches to, SEA effectiveness derived from SEA literature and planning theory. Lessons for evaluation can be learned from planning theory in particular, given its long history of analyzing and understanding how sources of information and decisions affect (subsequent) decision-making. Key concepts of this new approach are ‘conformance’ and ‘performance’. In addition, this article presents a systematic overview of process and context factors that can explain SEA effectiveness, derived from SEA literature. To illustrate the practical value of our framework for the assessment and understanding of substantive effectiveness of SEA, three Dutch SEA case studies are examined. The case studies have confirmed the usefulness of the SEA effectiveness assessment framework. The framework proved helpful in order to describe the cumulative influence of the three SEAs on decision-making and the ultimate plan.
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Abstract Nothing inherent in the discipline steers planners either toward environmental protection or toward economic development -- or toward a third goal of planning: social equity. Instead, planners work within the tension generated among these three fundamental aims, which, collectively, I call the "planner's triangle," with sustainable development located at its center. This center cannot be reached directly, but only approximately and indirectly, through a sustained period of confronting and resolving the triangle's conflicts. To do so, planners have to redefine sustainability, since its current formulation romanticizes our sustainable past and is too vaguely holistic. Planners would benefit both from integrating social theory with environmental thinking and from combining their substantive skills with techniques for community conflict resolution, to confront economic and environmental injustice.
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Rationality is identified as the paradigm that dominated planning and related disciplines until the mid-1950s. Subsequent attacks on the rational model revealed anomalies that have led to loss of professional identity and ambiguous roles for planners. Responses to paradigm breakdown include 'the ritual response,' 'avoidance,' 'abandonment,' and search for a new paradigm. Each response is described and examined for its potential to yield a usable replacement for the rational model. No such replacement appears imminent, but a contingent approach within the framework of a new meta-theory of decision making may offer the best prospects.
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This paper begins the analysis of complex multi-actor, multi-round decision-making processes in Canadian public policy formation. After setting out the notion of a decision-making style and its constitutive elements, the paper identifies research into complex multi-actor, multi-round decisions as a serious lacuna in the literature on public policy decision-making, despite the fact that this type of decision-making is very common in public policy-making circumstances. The paper advances research in this area through the analysis of several hypotheses raised in recent European studies concerning the conditions under which such processes are likely to successfully conclude in a decision, rather than an impasse. These hypotheses are tested against evidence taken from five cases of multi-round decision-making in Canada over the period 1995–2005: amendments to the Indian Act, the creation of Species-at-risk legislation, alterations to the Bank Act, the extension of Privacy legislation to the private sector and efforts to develop a Free Trade of the Americas Agreement (FTAA). Data on actor interactions in these five areas gleaned from on-line newspaper and media index services reveals that Canadian results do not match those arrived at in European studies, showing both different patterns of government and non-governmental activity and less volatility in actor behaviour as rounds evolve over time.
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In this article we argue that the City Monitor for Sustainable Urban Development in the Flanders (Belgium) acknowledges two kinds of complexities. Firstly, the set of almost 200 SDIs (Sustainable Development Indicators) is positioned in complex and strategic decision-making processes in Flemish cities. In this respect, this learning instrument contains actor-exceeding and policy-exogenous information, which is relevant for governance settings involved in the urban (sustainable) development of their city. The City Monitor is meant to enhance and sharpen the quality of strategic urban debates and, as a consequence, it has to be regarded as only one single element in complex urban decision-making processes. Secondly, the design methodology of the City Monitor also aims at addressing typical tensions brought about by such catch-all terms as urban sustainability. Because of the complex and normative character of the concept we opted for an intensive co-design approach with hundreds of urban stakeholders. The case of the City Monitor shows that this ‘complexity-acknowledging’ perspective and approach can be complementary to more traditional monitoring approaches.
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The objective of the Analytical Strategic Environmental Assessment method is to provide a complementary and decision-centred approach to the SEA process. The focus is to evaluate the decision-making process instead of the quantitative output of an assessment. Thus, the project provides a methodology and the relevant tools to analyse and assess the decision-making process of policies, plans and programmes (PPP). By considering the whole decision-making process, decisions most critical to the environmental impact of PPP can be identified. The ANSEA approach is designed to be used as an objective and transparent approach to ensure that environmental considerations are taken into account, or as an evaluation of how far environmental integration has been achieved in decision making processes.
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This article elaborates on the question of how complex decision making can be analysed. Three conceptual models are compared: the phase model, the stream model and the rounds model. Each model is based on specific assumptions about what decision making is and how it should be analysed. The phase model focuses on successive and distinctive stages in a process, i.e. defining a problem, searching for, choosing and implementing solutions. The stream model emphasizes concurrent streams of participants, problems and solutions, defining decision making as the connection between these streams. The rounds model combines elements of the other two models, in assuming that several actors introduce combinations of problems and solutions, and create progress through interaction. Each model generates specific insights, as is shown from the example of the ‘Betwe line’, a railway line intended for the transport of cargo, in the Netherlands. The phase model concentrates on decisions taken by a focal actor; the stream model focuses on the coincidentallinks between problems, solutions and actors; and the rounds model on the interaction between actors.
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The dominance of the neoliberal discourse in the sustainability debate has tended to privilege the economy over environment and social dimensions with implications for what is measured by sustainability monitoring systems. Moreover, systems to measure sustainability, including those influenced by neoliberal discourse, lack robust definitions and fail to address the interrelationship between social, economic and environmental contexts. If sustainability indicators are to help understand the interrelated forces driving change, by providing indications of sustainability, then the indicators should be derived from an epistemologically consistent conceptual framework which encapsulates clearly defined phenomena. The paper discusses whether sustainability indicators in the Australian context are derived from an epistemologically consistent framework. It is argued that the validity of current sustainability reporting systems is contestable. KeywordsSustainability-Reporting-Theoretical framework for sustainability-Political economy
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Impact assessment frameworks are gaining increasing attention as a procedure to integrate sustainability concerns in European and national policy-making. The gap between political visions on sustainable development and the reality of policy-making is, however, still pronounced, and a very limited range and scope of available assessment methods are used in practice. This study examines why this pattern prevails, in this case within the Swedish Committees of Inquiry, with a focus on institutional factors determining the function of Impact Assessments. The findings suggest that assessment procedures have little value when not accompanied by clear specific instructions on priorities. A range of institutional constraints emerge in the interface between policy makers and knowledge providers in committees. Dominant professional, organisational, and disciplinary cultures constrain the assessment, and socio-economic priorities are by tradition most important. Based on our analysis, we conclude that to enhance the potential for integrating sustainability concerns, it seems less fruitful to develop more advanced and complex assessment frameworks and models than strengthening institutional arenas for social learning. Such arenas should be; defined by a broad mandate and instructions, characterised by key personal skills and resources, and build institutional capacity for a range of stakeholders to engage with them.
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The objective of analytical strategic environmental assessment (ANSEA) is to provide a decision-centred approach to the SEA process. The ANSEA project evolved from the realisation that, in many cases, SEA, as currently practised, is not able to ensure an appropriate integration of environmental values. The focus of SEA is on predicting impacts, but the tool takes no account of the decision-making processes it is trying to influence. At strategic decision-making levels, in turn, it is often difficult to predict impacts with the necessary exactitude. The decision-making sciences could teach some valuable lessons here.Instead of focusing on the quantitative prediction of environmental consequences, the ANSEA approach concentrates on the integration of environmental objectives into decision-making processes. Thus, the ANSEA approach provides a framework for analysing and assessing the decision-making processes of policies, plans and programmes (PPP). To enhance environmental integration into the decision-making process, decision windows (DW) can be identified. The approach is designed to be objective and transparent to ensure that environmental considerations are taken into account, or—from an ex-post perspective—to allow an evaluation of how far environmental considerations have been integrated into the decision-making process under assessment. The paper describes the concepts and the framework of the ANSEA approach and discusses its relation to SEA and the EC Directive.
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The potential advantages of a decision-oriented theory of environmental assessment have long been recognised, but it is only in recent years that this topic has received concerted attention. This research advanced contemporary debate on environmental assessment through an empirically-informed evaluation of strategic theoretical and methodological issues associated with the practical application of decision-oriented theory. This was undertaken by critically analysing the decision-oriented Environmental Impact Assessment system of the German Development Cooperation (a bilateral development assistance agency) using a modified version of a recent conceptual and methodological development, Analytical Strategic Environmental Assessment. The results indicate that some aspects of decision-oriented theory offer considerable potential for environmental assessment process management, and should be employed routinely. Yet uncertainty remains about whether certain core concepts, notably the detailed a priori description of decision processes, can be achieved in practice. The analysis also indicates that there is considerably more common ground in many contemporary debates about environmental assessment than the literature, which has tended towards polarisation suggests. The significance of this research is that it recognises and highlights the contribution of decision-oriented theory to refocusing attention on the substantive intent of this globally significant policy tool.
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The author assumes that effective Impact Assessment procedures should somehow contribute to sustainable development. There is no widely agreed framework for evaluating such effectiveness. The author suggests that complexity theories may offer criteria. The relevant question is ‘do Impact Assessment Procedures contribute to the “requisite variety” of a social system for it to deal with changing circumstances?’ Requisite variety theoretically relates to the capability of a system to deal with changes in its environment. The author reconstructs how thinking about achieving sustainable development has developed in a sequence of discourses in The Netherlands since the 1970s. Each new discourse built on the previous ones, and is supposed to have added to ‘requisite variety’. The author asserts that Impact Assessment procedures may be a necessary component in such sequences and derives possible criteria for effectiveness.
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This paper engages with recent debates in the environmental assessment (EA) literature about the lessons that can be learned from planning theory. It argues that the current communicative turn in EA, echoing a similar shift in planning thought in the 1990s, has failed to benefit from this earlier experience. Instead of following this trend, the paper examines EA from a perspective which is more closely aligned with some of the critics of the communicative approach, and which combines concepts of power, rationality, value and ethics in a different way. First, the paper briefly sets out how planning theory has engaged with these concepts. It then argues that EA needs to engage with competing multiple rationalities, and the inescapable presence of value conflicts within EA. It then turns to recent debates in EA to show how the question of value has become a very difficult issue for EA theorists. These issues are then explored by looking at four cases where environmental impact assessment (EIA) and strategic environmental assessment (SEA) become dramatic sites of struggle, in very different ways: where the boundaries between facts, boundaries, and opinions are defined through power struggles; where SEA is used as a process of brokerage between a fragile coalition of interests; where power defines rationality in the construction of an SEA instrument; and where EIA is challenged from the outside by civil society. The paper closes by discussing how EA practitioners can operate reflexively and ethically in a world of contested rationality.
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Urban systems emerge as distinct entities from the complex interactions among social, economic and cultural attributes, and information, energy and material stocks and flows that operate on different temporal and spatial scales. Such complexity poses a challenge to identify the causes of urban environmental problems and how to address them without causing greater deterioration. Planning has traditionally focused on regulating the location and intensity of urban activities to avoid environmental degradation, often based on assumptions that are rarely revisited and producing ambiguous effects. The key intellectual challenge for urban policy-makers is a fuller understanding of the complexity of urban systems and their environment. We address this challenge by developing an assessment framework with two main components: (1) a simple agent-based model of a hypothetical urbanizing area that integrates data on spatial economic and policy decisions, energy and fuel use, air pollution emissions and assimilation, to test how residential and policy decisions affect urban form, consumption and pollution; (2) an information index to define the degree of order and sustainability of the hypothetical urban system in the different scenarios, to determine whether specific policy and individual decisions contribute to the sustainability of the entire urban system or to its collapse.
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Strategic environmental assessment (SEA) evaluates the environmental impacts of policies, plans, and programs. This article examines the use of SEA for sustainable urban development. We first explore opportunities for SEA to promote sustainability principles. Then, we analyze case studies that have applied SEA to comprehensive planning. Our results indicate that SEA can effectively weave sustainability principles into the fabric of urban plans. Finally, we highlight both SEA's potential and its challenges for sustainable urban development.
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Comparison of radically different solutions to environmental problems is often demanding in terms of knowledge-based clarification of decision criteria, as the options’ consequences tend to vary along many variables. The idea of ‘optimal’ solutions is often difficult to apply in a meaningful way in such situations. The rationality of decisions must rather be addressed through analyses of the processes that preceded them. Ideas of rational discourse have been developed that are adapted to this approach. The perspectives of Foucault and Habermas are applied in an analysis of a case of wastewater management in a Norwegian municipality. The paper addresses the importance of trust and knowledge to rational discourse, as well as the dependence of these on power embedded in inert discursive structures. It is argued that early in the planning process, explicit debate among all parties involved on basic value premises and ensuing decision criteria is essential in order to prevent the public debate from being distorted by existent tacit discursive structures.
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SEA has been described as being more about process than about product. Yet very little research has been conducted to gain a better understanding of how SEA processes perform within developing country contexts. To address this gap in knowledge the research underlying this paper aimed to evaluate the quality of SEA processes within the South African context against specifically designed key performance indicators. Comparison of the different data patterns revealed general SEA process features as well as three broad models, namely the ‘stand alone’, ‘central to decision making’ and ‘integrated’ models. The research results suggest a particularly poor performance in terms of process quality for the SEA case studies investigated. Moreover, it shows that there is no one understanding of SEA process within the South African context. The main limitations related to a weak understanding of the decision making processes SEA aimed to inform, as well as an inability to incorporate flexibility into process design. To take the debate forward it is proposed that SEA follow-up and effectiveness research be explored to determine which of these models (if any) ultimately contributed to influencing decision making and promote sustainability.