Most of the world's SEA systems are 'baseline-led'. Like EIA, they start from an existing baseline and make predictions about how the strategic action will change this baseline. They would result in assessments that look roughly like this (taken from the SEA of the US CALFED Bay-Delta Program). The baseline indicators are shown in italics:
"New storage allocated to environmental water supplies and water acquisitions for environmental uses could benefit aquatic species through enhancement of seasonal flow needs, potentially improving water temperature conditions and increasing habitat abundance... Although potentially reducing storage yield, entrainment losses also could be minimized through change in the timing of diversions to periods when species vulnerability is low. Under the Watershed program, activities are expected to improve water quality and flow conditions in the upper watershed, potentially improving species habitat [quality] in downstream areas through reduced contaminant input, cooler water temperature, and flow conditions that more closely meet species needs."
Some SEA systems, instead, are 'objectives-led': they predict whether the strategic action will help to fulfil a range of SEA objectives. Although the SEA objectives may overlap with the strategic action's objectives, they essentially act as an independent "sustainability/environmental yardstick" against which the strategic action can be tested. They would result in predictions roughly like this (from the Australian Fisheries Management Authority(AFMA)'s SEA for fishing in the Southern and Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery (SWTBF). The SEA objective is shown in italics:
"[Objective 2] Guideline 2.1.3: Measures are in place to avoid capture and mortality of bycatch species unless it is determined that the level of catch is sustainable:... As a part of the bilateral negotiations, Australia and Japan developed a Code of Practice for Sharks... Recognising the current high market value of shark fins and the largely unknown status of shark stocks, AFMA has a generic bycatch limit of 20 sharks per trip for operators within waters of the SWTBF and was introduced under fisheries management regulations. This limit is precautionary and may be reviewed once more information is available on particular species... Because of the difficulty in identifying shark species from fins alone, AFMA has prohibited landing of sharks without fins attached..."
The two approaches give different information. 'Baseline-led' SEAs generally focus on avoiding problems, and are often more quantitative and detailed. 'Objectives-led' SEA generally focus on achieving a sustainable vision, and are often more qualitative and broad-brush.
'Objectives-led' SEAs typically involve setting up an SEA framework comprised of SEA objectives, and possibly related indicators and targets; and then using this framework to test the strategic action's objectives, alternatives, and more detailed components. A simple example of an SEA framework - with only SEA objectives - was shown at the bottom of Unit 9. A more complex example can be seen by clicking here.
Setting up an SEA framework involves taking into account all of the issues discussed in Units 7-11. Two additional issues need to be considered:
- How many SEA objectives should be included? A balance needs to be struck between a very comprehensive list (good for ensuring that all issues are covered) and a manageable list (to ensure that the assessment stage is feasible). Typically, 12-25 main objectives seems to be a reasonable middle ground, possibly accompanied by sub-objectives to ensure comprehensiveness.
- What are the links between objectives and indicators? SEA indicators often arise from pre-existing monitoring programmes, and may not elegantly fit with SEA objectives that have been devised for quite different purposes. For instance, in the web-link example above, Objective 13 on biodiversity is accompanied only by bitty indicators that do not give a full indication of the biodiversity status in the authority. In such a case, future monitoring may need to be carried out to help give a fuller picture of whether the objective is achieved.