Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) provides for a high level of protection of the environment and promotes sustainable development by ensuring that relevant environmental considerations are integrated into government and public authority plans and programmes. SEA is an iterative process which:
- predicts, analyses and assesses the likely significant effects of plans and programmes on the environment, including cumulative/synergistic impacts which may be difficult to address through case-by-case assessment of individual projects;
- evaluates reasonable alternatives and mitigation measures to avoid or minimise such environmental impacts;
- seeks the views of stakeholders and the public on these effects; and
- influences the plan preparation process in order to address environmental issues at an early stage.
The legal basis for SEA is as follows:
- Directive 2001/42/EC on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment (SEA Directive). Additional information is available from http://ec.europa.eu/environment/eia/sea-legalcontext.htm.
- Strategic Environmental Assessment Regulations, 2010 (S.L. 549.61), accessible from www.sea.gov.mt. These regulations streamline the SEA process in Malta and replace the Strategic Environmental Assessment Regulations, 2005.
The Strategic Environmental Assessment Regulations, 2010 and Directive 2001/42/EC require that any plan or programme prepared by government or a public authority which is likely to have a significant effect on the environment should be subjected to an SEA in line with the provisions of the SEA Regulations.
SEA is an upstream process which complements other assessment processes at project level (e.g. Environmental Impact Assessment). SEA does not apply to individual projects.