Assessment of consistency of environmental issues in strategic documents

Authors and Affiliations: 

Tereza Aubrechtová - Department of Physical Geography and Geoecology, Faculty of Science, University of Ostrava, The Czech Republic
Eva Semančíková - Department of Ecosystem Biology, Faculty of Science, University of South Bohemia, The Czech Republic

Corresponding author: 
Tereza Aubrechtová

Strategic documents used to be perceived as a policy obligation without significant effect. They are evaluated mostly through proposed goals and measures. But we understand the consistent strategy as a solid, stable and long-term base for the more effective process of Environmental Policy Integration (EPI) which is essential for successful environmental protection. In our study we focus on strategical approach to EPI (Simeonova and van der Valk, 2009) with special respect to identify the main criteria forming the consistent strategy.
Coming from the SMART theory (Doran, 1981; Perrings et al., 2011) we identified 12 sub-criteria for consistent strategies (see Figure 1). The sub-criteria were weighted by the experts’ panel separately for national and particularly regional level, to set their priorities. For this purpose we used the pairwise comparisons of Analytic hierarchy process (AHP) (Bernasconi et al., 2014; Saaty, 2008, 1990; Vaidya and Kumar, 2006). The priorities were further used for the objective quantitative comparison of documents. Figure 2 shows that the goals and measures are dominant only on the national level, but the dominance is not significant.
The analysis, demonstrated on the example of landscape fragmentation, focused on three main aspects: 1) the overall perception of the issue by the documents; 2) internal consistency of the documents with special regard to presence/absence of such sub-criteria in relation to landscape fragmentation (Figure 3); 3) the degree of the issue integration on the horizontal (between resorts and sectors) and vertical (between administrative levels) level (Lafferty and Hovden, 2003). Integration of the issue was studied on 5 national and 7 regional documents.
Results of the study show that the issue is naturally most widely perceived by environmental national strategies which, unlike spatial planning strategies, omit the human perspective of the landscape fragmentation. The internal integration of the issue is irregular and inconsistent on both levels. We highlight especially absence of criteria with the highest priority (Location on regional level and Instruments on national level). Horizontal integration is very weak, but the vertical is almost absolute due to its legally binding character.
We can conclude that the criteria priority evaluation points to the current gap in the practice, where there are no methodical recommendations which criteria should be preferred on certain administrative level. The issues are not addressed holistically and are internally inconsistent.
Even if the consistency of strategies is important part of EPI, the most significant impact has a political will (Nilsson and Persson, 2003) combined with a political culture and willingness to communicate (Simeonova and van der Valk, 2009). Further research should be done to verify the applicability of consistent strategies among administrative levels to determine the most significant aspects avoiding the process of integration.


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