After analysing what is happening to the environment and why, and what the impacts are, the third step in the IEA is to address the question: What is being done and how effective is it?
This is a retrospective analysis of what has been and is being done to maintain and enhance the environment and human well-being. This information paves the way for forward-looking policy analysis, which is further considered in Module 6, Scenario
From an analytic perspective, this third step in the GEO approach to IEA deals with societal responses (Figure 21). These actions include government policies, plans and programmes, as well as actions of civil society and business through such interventions as science and technology.
Responses can have an effect on many facets of an environmental issue, including the state of the environmental issue (e.g., afforestation actions affect the state of forests), pressures (e.g., housing construction), drivers (e.g., community population growth) and even the impacts of changes in an environmental state (e.g., actions which help communities adapt to lack of forest cover, such as alternative fuel or building material sources [Figure 21]).
|Figure 21: Analytical framework –
societal responses and the third step
in the GEO IEA approach
As a general categorization, those actions that influence drivers, pressures and environmental states are helping to reduce society’s exposure to a change in the environment. In contrast, societal responses which alleviate the impact of a change in the environment help build society’s capacity to adapt. Together, responses that influence both our exposure to change and our ability to adapt to impacts help reduce our vulnerability to environmental change.
This section focuses on societal responses in the form of government policy. To help you better understand what is meant by policies, section 6.1 presents background information on policies and policy analysis. Sections 6.2–6.7 introduce you to five simple steps for analysing the mix of existing policies that may be having an influence on environmental issues in your area.