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Sustainability Indicators Supporting Strategic Environmental Assessment for Urban Planning
Published: 17 October 2012 by MDPI in The 2nd World Sustainability Forum session Sustainable Urban Development
Abstract: Strategic Environmental Assessment has been introduced by EU legislation recognizing that spatial planning processes need to be supported by the evaluation of medium and long term effects of policies, plans or programs under investigation. The last two decades of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) practices highlighted some lack in comprehensiveness, especially in assessing drivers of different nature (infrastructure, industrial development, household consumption) and related impacts. In fact, household consumption plays a relevant role in the total share of local impacts in a given region or city. This requires to enlarge the perspective of the assessment in order to make it really useful for decision making and resolving possible conflicts between environmental protection and social and economic development objectives in a proficient way. The methodology presented in this paper is an attempt to enlarge the traditional perspective of SEA, centred on the environmental assessment as a picture of current and future situation: the assessment made by a set of single environmental indicators is combined with the evaluation made through the composite indicators Ecological Footprint & Biocapacity and Carbon balance. This evaluation methodology can help: i) to understand if the level of consumption of the local community exceeds the limits of natural resources of the area (in a perspective of self-sustainment at the local scale) or if there is an overshoot between the footprint and the biocapacity, i.e. if the local consumption the cause of excessive land use in other areas; ii) to identify the role of spatial planning choices in determining the sustainability of the entire system. The case study presented in this paper is the implementation of this approach in the Strategic Environmental Assessment of a spatial planning plan of four municipalities in Northern Italy.
Keywords: Strategic Environmental Assessment, Sustainability indicators, Ecological Footprint, Carbon balance