Given the now widely recognized close coupling of the environment with economic and social development, IEA analysis must cover an ever growing circle of issues that used to be regarded as marginal to environmental reporting.
Broadening the focus brings with it questions concerning the way environmental themes and issues could be analysed. Ultimately, the environment is one unit, even if with many components and processes, and any thematic or sectoral division should serve only to simplify the analysis and communication.
In a more traditional approach, the analysis is organized around environmental themes (e.g., water, air). From the perspective of policy, however, environmental problems under different themes often intersect with the same set of socio-economic processes or policies. Development of the transportation infrastructure, for instance, has implications for land cover, water quality and biodiversity. Such impacts would appear fragmented if the analysis were structured around environmental themes. So, from one point of view, analysing environmental implications of the sector would be more practical/strategic.
However, using a sectoral approach, for example, transport, energy, agriculture, may result in fragmenting the environmental picture. Pressures on water quality, for example, may need to be addressed under agriculture, energy and municipal water supply.
Although we have presented sectoral and thematic approaches as two distinctly different alternatives in this module, there are ways to combine the two, depending on the environmental problems and information needs of your country or region. Before starting an actual IEA Analysis, your core group should have analysed its assessment needs, and agreed on a clear set of the objectives and goals for the process (see Module 3 for more detail). In developing a consensus on a context for the IEA, it is important to keep in mind that it is not possible to cover all aspects of the environment in one assessment or reporting process. Further, environmental assessment and monitoring should be conducted in a continuous cycle. There is a mix of both thematic and sectoral reporting with different frequencies (e.g., larger overall IEA reports every five years and shorter, sectoral or indicator-based reports annually).
With use of the Internet becoming more widespread, some aspects of IEA reporting also become ongoing rather than a cyclical, stop-go process. For instance, updates on specific indicators can be published on IEA websites and databases as new data become available, without waiting for the next IEA report cycle.
Examples of sectoral and thematic reporting programmes at the global level
Global Forest Resources Assessment – http://www.fao.org/
World Water Assessment – http://www.unesco.org/
State of the Great Lakes (SOLEC) – http://www.epa.gov/
World Energy Assessment (World Energy Council, UNDP) –
International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) – http://www.agassessment.org/
Q: What were the contexts of previous SoE reporting processes in your country?
Q: Having considered the contexts of previous reporting processes and the existing IEA and environmental information needs for decision making, what is the best context for a new assessment process in your country?
Q: How might the new IEA process be designed to minimize the “cutting the cake dilemma?” Discuss issues related to analysis of transboundary environmental problems.