Strategic Environmental Assessment

Strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is an effective tool to help decision makers promote sustainable development. It provides a systematic approach for identifying the environmental impacts of proposals for policies, plans, and programs early in the planning process. By identifying adverse environmental impacts before they occur, SEAs allow decision makers to modify the design of policies, plans and programs so that the negative impacts can be minimized or eliminated and the positive impacts optimized.

The Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals is the key policy that formally integrates environmental considerations into federal government decision-making through the use of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). This Directive states that Ministers expect an SEA of a policy, plan or program proposal to be conducted when the following two conditions are met:

  1. The proposal is submitted to an individual Minister or Cabinet for approval; and
  2. Implementation of the proposal may result in important environmental effects, either positive or negative.

The SEA process used within Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD) fosters the integration of environmental considerations into policy development and decision making in a manner that ensures the level of effort is commensurate with the potential outcome.

In 2010 the Department conducted a review of our internal SEA review process. There were two primary contributing factors:

  1. The Federal Sustainable Development Strategy has created new analytical and reporting requirements for SEA across the government; and
  2. DFATD’s New Business Model implemented across the Department stresses focussing on our core business in a more efficient manner. 

Consequently, in early 2011, we implemented a review process that helps focus DFATD resources more appropriately on proposals with the potential to result in important environmental effects, where there is uncertainty or where there is public concern.