Georgia is taking further steps towards the development of strategic environmental assessment (SEA) and environmental impact assessment (EIA) systems that will help it in its efforts towards sustainable development.
On 23 September, the draft law on EIA and SEA, which is now compliant with the provisions of the UNECE Convention on EIA in a Transboundary Context (Espoo Convention) and its Protocol on SEA, was discussed with 30 national stakeholders. After incorporation of the comments obtained from the participants, the draft law should be submitted to the parliament in the spring of 2016. The country will then be ready to join the Espoo Convention and its Protocol on SEA.
While working on the legislation, Georgia is also developing practical experience on SEA. The first-ever SEA pilot was initiated in August 2015 for the National Waste Management Strategy and Action Plan, with the aim of testing the provisions of the newly developed law on EIA and SEA.
On 22 September, the initial findings and recommendations developed under the Waste Management Strategy and Action Plan were discussed with national stakeholders. Forty experts and representative from waste management authorities, planning experts and representatives of NGOs, environmental and health authorities and other sectoral ministries provided their feedback. Consultations on the draft SEA report and the Strategy and Action Plan are planned to be held by the end of October.
After the SEA system is in place and the model is adopted, all plans and programmes developed by the Georgian Government in the areas such as agriculture, energy, industry, waste management, water management, tourism, spatial planning, that will have a possible impact on the environment will become subject to SEA procedures.
Opening the meeting, Maia Bitadze, the Deputy Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia noted that and SEA system “can become a powerful tool for fostering the country’s progress towards sustainability. Application of an SEA system will ensure that Georgia is moving towards green economy and inclusive development.”
The Espoo (EIA) Convention sets out the obligations of Parties to assess the environmental impact of certain activities at an early stage of planning. It also lays down the general obligation of States to notify and consult each other on all major projects under consideration that are likely to have a significant adverse environmental impact across boundaries.
The Convention was adopted in 1991 and entered into force on 10 September 1997.
The Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment, now in force, requires its Parties to evaluate the environmental consequences of their official draft plans and programmes. Strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is undertaken much earlier in the decision-making process than project environmental impact assessment (EIA), and it is therefore seen as a key tool for sustainable development. The Protocol also provides for extensive public participation in government decision-making in numerous development sectors.
Georgia is not yet a Party of the Espoo Convention and its Protocol on SEA. UNECE supports the Georgian Government in its efforts to join the two treaties in the framework of the EU-funded Greening Economies in the Eastern Neighbourhood (EaP GREEN) programme (http://www.unece.org/env/eia/about/eap_green.html) and in partnership with the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia.
The EaP GREEN programme aims to help the Government of Georgia establish an integrated policy framework for the transition to a green economy through: reforming policy instruments, adopting new analytical tools, improving access to finance, supporting capacity development, and rolling out pilot projects in the public and private sectors.
The SEA pilot is conducted by the team of national and international experts in close cooperation with the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection and the Strategy and Action Plan drafting team.
The events on 22 and 23 September were organized by the UNECE and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia with the support of the NGO, Georgia’s Environmental Outlook.