Cumulative effects assessment (CEA) methodology : theory and practice

University essay from SLU/Dept. of Urban and Rural Development

Abstract: Cumulative Effects Assessment (CEA) is a subdiscipline of environmental assessment, specially targeting the collective effects resulting from diverse human activities and in combination with natural processes. CEA implementation in practice is slow, despite of the available framework and legal requirements. It is caused by the complexity of the cumulative effects issue, especially when quantifying the effect magnitude and analysing their significance. The aim of this work was to suggest pragmatic improvements to straighten Swedish CEA practice. This was done by compiling CEA legal requirements, theoretical concepts and practical advices, followed by analyse of their use in selected practice-examples. Combining knowledge and information from diverse sources allowed me to identify the main implementation gaps and to propose means to advance CEA practice. Focus of the work are effects on the environment, but similar principles might be used to assess societal impacts. The main finding is that there are CEA concepts and tools readily available, but they are rarely used in the practice. To enhance its implementation, CEA should be i) done independently from the conventional project-EIA, ii) implement system-perspective, iii) focus on protection of environmental functions, iv) target all pressures, not only project ones, v) assess alternative future scenarios and vi) relate to long-term sustainability goals. Further suggestions and recommended tools are stated later in the text. Relevant and credible CEA has the potential to promote sustainable development and optimal resource use.

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