SEA screening: one step closer to the new programme

One of the key steps in developing our future programme (2021-2027) is to evaluate its environmental impacts. In the spring of 2021, an independent screening therefore took place under the EU Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Directive.

Following an open tender, Ramboll Management Consulting was selected to perform the screening in line with the EU SEA Directive (2001/42/EC). The company used a detailed screening checklist and several background documents to assess how the draft programme might affect the environment.

The most important take-away message from the screening report is that there is no requirement for a full SEA. This enables a quicker implementation of the new programme. A full SEA would cause a delay.

Current state of programming

The programming is currently in its last stages and the draft programme has been sent out for national member state consultation. 

In a nutshell, the new programme will focus on four thematic priorities covering a total of 8 specific objectives. All projects in the future programme need to address one of the priorities and at least one of the specific objectives covered.

Please note: Priority 2 is currently under revision, based on feedback received from the European Commission. It will have a different structure compared to the brochure below, but will cover the same topics.

Main conclusions

The initial investigation concluded that the future programme does not require a full SEA. In April 2021, the secretariat shared the draft screening report for national consultation in Denmark, Flanders, France, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, and Sweden. Based on the feedback, the consultant retained this conclusion in the final screening report.  

The conclusion was based on the following reasoning:

  • The programme does not set the framework for future development consent of projects, i.e. the legal process for approving development projects.
  • It is unlikely that the programme will cause significant negative or positive effects on the environment; and
  • Any influence that the programme has on implementation of other plans or programmes does not increase the likelihood that those other plans and programmes will cause significant negative or positive effects on the environment.  

What the SEA asssessment means

It is hardly of surprise to learn that our future programme will not affect the environment negatively. However, the attentive reader may find it surprising to learn that the programme would not have significant positive effects on the environment. After all, sustainability and green transitions make up a big part of the future programme.

The reason for this lies in the word “significant” and how this is interpreted in the context of the SEA. Ramboll explains that “the comparatively limited budget allocated to cooperation programmes restricts their scope to produce large-scale tangible (significant) impacts and this is particularly the case with transnational programmes which focus on larger areas, therefore limiting the ‘concrete’ impact even further.”

At the secretariat, we recognise this logic in terms of the criteria set up for requiring a full SEA. Meanwhile, we are also proud to know that our projects do make a positive difference. They catalyse innovation, networks, and positive developments that reach far beyond the projects’ own limited scope.

Our future projects will certainly support the EU Green Deal in generating real change on the ground. And the sooner they can start, the better!

The consultant conducted the screening in line with the EU SEA Directive (2001/42/EC).

ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Jesper Jönsson and Jenny Thomsen are Project Advisors at the North Sea Region Programme.

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