Integrated analysis of environmental trends and policies refers to a set of processes and methods to analyse the state of the environment as it is affected by natural forces, human activities and policies.
Traditional SoE reporting that tries to answer the question, “What is happening to the environment?” has been around for over three decades. Beginning in the late 1990s, several countries prepared SoE reports using the IEA approach, with increasing emphasis on root causes, policy drivers and impacts of environmental change. The IEA approach has a series of questions the assessment seeks to answer (Figure 1).
Module 1 of this Resource Book presents detailed information on the evolving concepts and methods used in the Global Environment Outlook (GEO) and related reports by UNEP. This module focuses on answering the first three questions in Figure 1. The fourth and fifth questions build on the first three, and are addressed in Module 6.
In Step 1 (Figure 1), you will learn about compiling and analysing quantitative and qualitative information related to the status and trends of the environment, including spatial and temporal characteristics of change. We also will address how drivers—natural or anthropogenic—exert influence.
Step 2 will guide you through identifying and analysing ways environmental chang affects the ability of the environment to provide specific services such as pollination of crops by insects, regulation of carbon in the atmosphere or the cultural or recreational value of landscapes. Here, you also will investigate direct versus indirect impacts on human vulnerability and well-being as well as the potential costs of those effects.
Step 3 involves identifying all policies that have significant influence on the environment and human well-being. It also helps identify policy gaps and opportunities for policy innovation, and determine the effectiveness of policies.
In order to illustrate the concepts and methodologies introduced in the three steps in this module, a feature case study focusing on the Red River basin in North America will be used. Different aspects of the case study will be presented as applicable to the methodology discussed in various sections.
Upon successful completion of this module, you will be prepared to:
- Identify priority issues influencing environmental change.Describe and interpret environmental change through time and space, by making use of qualitative and quantitative information, including indicators.
- Identify direct and indirect causes of environmental change.
- Identify and characterize impacts of environmental change on environment and society.
- Identify and analyse policy mechanisms and responses that directly or indirectly contribute—in positive or negative ways—to environmental change.
|Figure 1: Key questions to be answered by State of the Environment (SoE) Assessment and Policy
Analysis in the IEA Framework.
Keeping environmental state-and-trends assessment for all issues clustered helps analyze crosscutting issues within the environmental domain and then, separately, discuss policy matters in one section that may facilitate comparison. However, separating the analysis of policies from the description of underlying environmental status and trends might make for a more fragmented report.
Box 1: What is an Integrated environmental assessment?
The world is faced with major environmental challenges, which have complex causes and consequences. This requires a structured process of dealing with environmental issues and their interactions with society, including political processes and the economic system. It needs to use knowledge from a wide range of scientific disciplines and stakeholders, so that integrated insights are made available to decision-makers.
An assessment is the entire social process for undertaking a critical objective evaluation and analysis of data and information designed to meet user needs, and to support decision making. It applies the judgment of experts to existing knowledge to provide scientifically credible answers to policy relevant questions, quantifying where possible the level of confidence.
Integrated Environmental Assessment provides a participatory, structured approach to linking knowledge and action. Over time, GEO has developed an increasingly integrated approach to environmental assessment, the use of indicators and reporting in answering the questions shown on Figure 1.
The “integrated approach” is an umbrella term for:
- linking the analysis of environmental state and trends with the policy analysis;
- incorporating global and sub-global perspectives;
- incorporating historical and future perspectives;
- covering a broad spectrum of issues and policies; and
- integrating the consideration of environmental change and human well-being.
In groups of 3-4 persons, discuss the following questions for five minutes. Be prepared to share your key points in plenary.
Q: Do the questions proposed on Figure 1 reflect your understanding of what should be covered by IEA? If they do not, how would you rephrase them?
Q: In your opinion, given your experiences to date, is it more advantageous to treat state-and-trends separate from policy analysis or integrated? Why?