Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Methods for integrated environmental assessment

The European Commission, DG XII, commissioned the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) to carry out a review of methods for integrated environmental assessment and to examine possible directions for future research. The review was carried out with support from the socio-econo...
The European Commission, DG XII, commissioned the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) to carry out a review of methods for integrated environmental assessment and to examine possible directions for future research. The review was carried out with support from the socio-economic environmental research unit of the Community's specific RTD programme in the field of environment and climate.

The SEI's review suggests that integrated environmental assessment (IEA) methodologies offer an opportunity to develop coherent policy responses for all issues with environmental implications. IEA draws upon the broad range of knowledge available, both within the scientific community and the wider community, enabling informed and effective decisions on different courses of action to be formulated.

IEA involves both experts and lay people, including community representatives. This broad participation is essential, since a wide range of knowledge, experience and views must be applied to the complex issues involved. In particular, non-experts must be involved in the process for a variety of reasons.

The potential users of IEA methodologies represent a broad range of interests and assessments of their possible applications must, therefore, also reflect the divergent interests of these user groups. A major difficulty in assessing IEA methodologies stems from the fact that the techniques are all interdisciplinary and there is no "home discipline". Effective IEA methodologies will require improved cooperation between different scientific communities and greater interaction between science and the rest of society.

Whilst computer modelling is a vital part of IEA methodologies, practitioners must recognise that some important forms of information cannot be represented accurately in computer modelling methods. A major challenge is the incorporation of informal and practical knowledge, such as people's real concerns, into assessments. This will require greater involvement of social and political scientists in the development of IEA methodologies.

As the integration of environmental concerns into all areas of policy is the target of EC policy, including the Fifth Environmental Action Programme, the development of IEA would benefit this. This development would be assisted by the establishment of an IEA network and forum, which would allow exchanges of information and experience between the different regions and cultures of Europe, as well as increased understanding of these differences.

Source: European Commission, DG XII
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