A pilot project in Georgia was kicked off as part of UNECE’s longstanding support to enhancing the country’s strategic environmental assessment (SEA) and transboundary environmental impact assessment systems in accordance with the UNECE Protocol on SEA and the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (Espoo Convention). The pilot will provide Georgia hands-on learning for the effective practical application of its 2017 Environmental Assessment Code that UNECE helped develop. The pilot focuses on two interlinked spatial plans under development in Gurjaani municipality, Kakheti, offering analytical, consultative and methodological support, for applying SEA to these plans and will run in parallel with the planning processes. Ultimately, it will serve as a reference case example for the application of SEA to spatial planning in Georgia. Spatial planning is one of the largest and most comprehensive sectors world-wide where SEA is regularly used to safeguard the environment.
SEA allows countries to mainstream environmental, climate and health objectives into government plans, programmes and other strategic documents and is an effective tool towards achieving sustainable development and global climate commitments. Applying SEA to spatial planning helps bring nature back to cities and towns, green investments and make infrastructure sustainable.
UNECE’s assistance to Georgia is being funded within the “European Union for Environment” (EU4Environment) programme in the Eastern Partnership countries.
The EU4Environment programme allows UNECE to support the countries in building capacities for applying environmental assessments more effectively and systematically. A number of these countries are also supported in fully aligning their national legislation with the Protocol on SEA and the Espoo Convention.
A virtual event organized by UNECE in cooperation with the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia and the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure of Georgia on 16 March 2022 kicked off this pilot project, familiarized the relevant national and local authorities, experts and non-governmental organizations with the objectives of SEA and discussed in more detail the benefits and potential constraints of its implementation.
Speaking in the opening of the event, Mzia Giorgobiani, Deputy Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure of Georgia, noted: “There are important interlinkages between spatial planning and SEA. This pilot SEA project is important and will serve as a roadmap to guide other municipalities in the preparation of similar documents in the future”.
“Georgia has achieved considerable progress in aligning its legislation and practice with the Espoo Convention and its Protocol on SEA. UNECE’s extensive and longstanding support to Georgia is assisting it in taking further steps to become Party to these two UNECE treaties”, said Leonid Kalashnyk, EU4Environment Project Manager at UNECE.
At the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, environmental assessments play an important role in building a green and sustainable future. With the economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, the need for systematic and effective environmental assessment remains pressing. Health-inclusive strategic environmental assessment is well placed to contribute to building healthier, more sustainable and resilient societies, by considering the resilience of countries to communicable disease outbreaks, and the ability to prevent an outbreak from becoming a pandemic.