Commissie m.e.r.

Netherlands Commission for Environmental Assessment Annual report 2021

To mark the milestone of 35 years of Environmental Assessment* in the Netherlands in 2022, we asked administrators and boards of 42 provinces, municipalities, ministries, water boards, environmental services and civil society organisations to tell us what the unique qualities of Environmental Assessment are and what could be improved. We then further explored the resulting insights in eight fascinating discussions with university professors. This resulted in the position paper 'Me(e)r dan ooit. Milieueffectrapportage: voor besluiten over onze leefomgeving ('EA more than ever. Environmental Assessment: for decisions on the environment we live in'). It presents a six-point plan for the further development of Environmental Assessment, so that from 2030 onwards the wider living environment will also be fully considered in decisions on spatial plans.

Last year, we also renewed our Theory of Change of our international work. Environmental and social assessment was already in the picture as an information tool. But it is becoming increasingly clear that it is also very effective in shaping multi-actor processes. In low-income countries in particular it is not yet a given that, for example, environmental authorities or civil society groups are sufficiently involved in decision-making and planning processes. We are seeing more and more instances where environmental and social assessment is successfully achieving such involvement. This will be one of the starting points in our proposal for renewed cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 2022 onwards.

* Please note that for our Dutch practice, we use the terms Environmental Assessment and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The main impacts assessed in the Netherlands, are in the domain of the physical environment and health. For our international practice we use the terms Environmental and Social Assessment and Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA). In a growing number of countries where we are active and in the work of international finance organisations such as the World Bank, social impacts are considered an integral part of the Environmental Assessment procedure and mentioned in the title. Strategic Environmental Assessment is used in both the Dutch and international contexts.

Advice in the Netherlands

202179 mandatory81 non-mandatory
202052 mandatory81 non-mandatory
201945 mandatory85 non-mandatory

International activities

202123 advisory reports16 countries/regions capacity development
202032 advisory reports20 countries/regions capacity development
201934 advisory reports25 countries/regions capacity development

january

february

Nitrogen emissions: where's the limit?

Nature in the Netherlands is still not doing well. Many Natura 2000 areas are overburdened by too much nitrogen. In 2021, nitrogen was therefore again on everyone's mind, including a lot of case law and new legislation. Initiators of a plan involving construction, no longer need a permit for the repercussions the construction phase will have on nitrogen emissions. Since such emissions can be considerable, in our advisory reports we point out the importance of paying attention to them. We noticed last year that this aspect is often overlooked.

Conflicting interests in chimpanzee habitat

The Bafing Falémé region in Guinea is an important chimpanzee habitat in West Africa. In this region there are plans for a dam, mining, railway and roads. Various ministries have therefore decided to jointly draw up a sustainable development plan. The ministries want to carry out a Strategic Environmental Assessment for this plan, to ensure that information about the environmental and social effects of the investments is properly taken account of in the decision-making process. An SEA will also help ensure good quality public participation and thus contribute to support for the plan.

Since Guinea has little experience with SEA, we have been asked to coach this process. The first phase focuses on creating a roadmap that will shape the planning process and the associated SEA. It shows the points in time at which decisions are made and what information must be present at these points.

march

165 participants in online knowledge sessions

Ensure high quality Environmental Assessment reports for aviation

In April, we advised on two projects that will have a major impact on people and nature and are under close scrutiny: the EIA report for the new Schiphol Airport traffic decision and the SEA report for the Netherlands airspace review. The Schiphol report lacked information about nitrogen and CO2 emissions and noise levels. The report for the airspace review did not sufficiently assess the regional environmental impact of an additional flight path to Schiphol. We advised the minister to first complete both reports by adding the missing information, before taking a decision.

Legislation on Strategic Environmental Assessment for Jordan in the making

In the past 20 years, Jordan has gained experience in Strategic Environmental Assessment. In light of the growing need for sustainable and inclusive planning and the important role of environmental and social assessment in this, the Ministry of Environment wishes to make SEA mandatory. In a series of online working sessions with the Ministry, we looked at the current situation, which regulations would suit the country and the necessary steps for the future. A core team at the Ministry will take this forward.

april

may

Environmental and Social Impact Assessment guidelines for dredging projects in Colombia

The Ministries of Transport and Environment in Colombia are developing guidelines for ESIA for dredging access channels and seaports. They asked us to comment on these guidelines, based on our experience in the Netherlands and worldwide. We advised supplementing several topics in the guidelines. To make the guidelines truly relevant for project developers and ESIA consultants, more explanation is needed. For example, about the importance of studying alternatives, attention to reusing dredged material and to the relationship of dredging with climate change.

A good environmental plan starts with an Environmental Assessment. Use the Handbook!

The Environment and Planning Act will come into force in 2023. This new law integrates various 'spatial' laws into a single integral law. In anticipation of this new law, instruments such as physical environmental plans and environmental strategies are already being developed. In most cases, these are required to undergo a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA).

An SEA report for an environmental strategy or a physical environmental plan, requires a different approach under the Environment and Planning Act and must include new topics such as health, energy transition and climate adaptation. How to deal with that? What are the environmental consequences of physical environment plans that are of a flexible and broad nature? How to elaborate on the environmental strategy in the physical environment plan? There was already a handbook to help Dutch municipalities with their environmental strategy. Together with the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG), we produced a practical handbook for physical environment plans which contains tips specifically for administrators and planners. There's no disputing the need to start in good time! Looking at the effects on the human environment and smart alternatives early in the process, will benefit the entire process.

IAIA Award Best Article 2020 for colleague Sibout Nooteboom - Environmental Assessment as an Institution of Liberal Democracy

june

Environmental effects + social effects = a more complete picture

A new spatial plan, such as for the construction of a residential area or a road, involves not only environmental effects, but also social and health effects like social safety, accessibility and variety of public amenities, and whether a plan will encourage residents to be active and to exercise. Identifying the social effects of spatial plans and projects gives administrators and stakeholders a broader and more complete picture of all the impacts. Moreover, it yields input for improving a plan and gaining support for it. So, an Environmental Assessment report can also directly provide a picture of the social effects. The Handreiking Sociale effecten in milieueffectrapportage (Handbook of Social Effects in Environmental Assessments) can be very useful in this respect.

july

Strategic Environmental Assessment and land governance

The regulations, institutions, decision-making and processes for organising access to and use of land and natural resources give rise to many challenges, such as paying sufficient attention to sustainable alternatives, expropriation issues and good public participation. Strategic Environmental Assessment can play an important role in meeting these challenges. Based on our experience in developing countries, we published a fact sheet on this topic and organised a panel discussion during the international LANDac Conference.

National environmental standards require Environmental Assessment

august

Council of State: national environmental standards require Environmental Assessment

The government should have drawn up an Environmental Assessment report before establishing national environmental standards for wind farms. That was the judgement of the Council of State in June in a ruling on a wind farm in Delfzijl. It was a clear ruling that also outlined a framework for Environmental Assessments for other general environmental standards, such as for odour and light nuisance and for the environmental standards that water boards, municipalities and provinces often set themselves. The State Secretary has now started work on the Environmental Assessment report for national wind turbine standards. We recommended that the report investigates a wide range of alternatives, as in this way, the government will be able to make a balanced decision about the new standards.

september

Delegation from Niger visits the NCEA

'Even though our countries are very different, we can learn from each other's challenges in the area of climate change', remarked a member of the Niger delegation visiting the NCEA in September. Invest International and the Nigerien Ministry of Environment are working together on a strategic plan for sustainable development in Western Niger. We are coaching the accompanying Strategic Environmental Assessment. The delegation was invited to hear more about the Dutch experience with climate change, water management and area development. It was an inspiring week that contributed to good collaboration.

october

Energy transition... up to speed and the wind behind us

In 2021, we advised on many Environmental Assessment reports for the energy transition: Net op Zee IJmuiden, VAWOZ 2030, Windpark ZE-BRA, parcel decisions, 380 kilovolt high-voltage lines, underground cable routes from offshore wind farms to the mainland, regional energy strategies and suitable sites for a solar farm. In order to know where and how sustainable energy can be incorporated, one needs to have a good idea of the environmental impacts on people and nature. Clear insight into these impacts and transparent reproducible research into different locations and possibilities helps in the decision-making process and in garnering support.

Launch of new ESIA diagnostic tool for the mining sector at the IGF Sustainable Mining Conference

november

Agreement between the NCEA and the World Wildlife Fund

In 2021, we signed a cooperation agreement for a period of four years with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The aim is to use environmental and social assessment to organise dialogue between government, civil society and the private sector on sustainable development-driven decision-making. This partnership, which is part of the new Voices for Climate Action Programme, builds on our collaboration over the past four years in the successful Shared Resources, Joint Solutions Programme.

Online NCEA's expert days big succes

december

Activities in the UNESCO World Heritage Wadden Sea site: a full picture of their effects is required

To be able to make good decisions about gas production on land, below and above the Wadden Sea, and salt mining below the Wadden Sea, an integral assessment of all effects - such as those on nature, cultural history and climate – is needed. The Nature Protection Act also requires that the impact of gas production and salt mining is considered in conjunction with other activities. In our advisory report on gas production near the village of Ternaard, for instance, we noted that important information on subsidence, nature and breeding birds was missing from the EIA report. So we recommended that the report be supplemented, as the information is essential for a well-considered decision – especially in projects of such great social importance.

Publication and webinar: SEA for a sustainable hydropower sector

More facts, figures, advisory reports The Netherlands

Mandatory and non-mandatory advisory reports

Of the 160 advisory reports issued in 2021, 79 were mandatory advisory reviews. The remaining 81 were non-mandatory on, for example, the scoping of an Environmental Assessment report, an interim review and a supplement to an Environmental Assessment report.

More demand for mandatory advisory reports, less demand for non-mandatory advisory reports

The total of 79 mandatory advisory reports is considerably more than the 52 in 2020 and the 45 in 2019. We issued 81 non-mandatory advisory reports in 2021, which is comparable to the 81 in 2020 and 85 in 2019.

Impact of complicated rules for calculating nitrogen emissions is reflected in Environmental Assessment reports

Environmental Assessment is a good instrument for giving a picture of the impact a plan or project will have on the living environment. The impact on Natura 2000 areas in particular, requires much attention in the decision-making process. For 53 Environmental Assessment reports a so-called 'appropriate assessment' was prepared. An appropriate assessment is required where a project or plan may give rise to significant effects on a Natura 2000 site.

Almost half of the appropriate assessments lacked a proper elaboration of the effects on Natura 2000 areas – a shortcoming that is partly attributable to the many developments relating to nitrogen emissions, such as the new calculation methods. We review an Environmental Assessment report in light of current rules, while these may have changed since that report was written.

Need to drum up support? Take points of view into account

Involvement and participation of residents and stakeholders often secures more support for a government decision. Our recommendations also gain in quality from insight into the submitted points of view, as these often provide important extra information.

We took points of view into account in 57 percent of our advisory reports

In these advisory reports, competent authorities requested that information from public consultations be included. Municipalities and provinces requested the inclusion of opinions in 73 percent of the advisory reports on scoping. The percentage was lower in the case of advisory reports on reviews: 49 percent. For the national government and the water boards, the percentages are the other way round: less than 50 percent in the case of advisory reports on scoping, and over three-quarters in the case of reviews.

Quality of Environmental Assessment reports still requires attention

Strategic Environmental Assessment for environmental strategies not easy

We issued a large number of advisory reviews of environmental strategies: 20 concerned municipal strategies and one concerned a provincial strategy. These strategies set out longer-term ambitions. It was striking that none of the SEA reports reviewed were complete. In the case of these strategies, particularly the elaboration of a good reference situation and the development of alternatives often required more attention. Additionally, extra information was also necessary to arrive at a clear and understandable assessment of the consequences for climate and energy.

In the case of three environmental strategies, an advisory report on the scoping of the SEA report was requested first. The SEA reports for these strategies have not yet been submitted to us for review.

Environmental Assessment report provides administrators with relevant information for making a decision

Overall, approximately 15 percent of the reviewed reports, including supplements, provided administrators with the essential information they needed to be able to weigh up the environmental impacts in their decision-making.

Recommendations on scoping: the basis for a good Environmental Assessment report

When advising on scoping, we are involved in the planning process at an early stage. The NCEA had issued such advisory reports for three-quarters of the Environmental Assessment reports that were assessed as being adequate (leaving aside the problems associated with not taking account sufficient account of Natura 2000 areas, as mentioned above).

Our conclusion: an advisory report on scoping helps to ensure that the Environmental Assessment report is of good quality and complete. It provides the administrator with the information needed to make a good decision.

More facts, figures, activities International

Some of the work we do abroad is the same as in the Netherlands, namely advising on terms of reference and reviewing environmental assessment reports. But we also devote much time to other activities, such as advising on environmental assessment legislation and regulations, giving coaching on strategic environmental assessment processes, training staff of environmental authorities and NGOs, and screening project proposals to see if they comply with local obligations for environmental assessment.

For some years, we have been actively involved with Dutch facilities concerned with the aid and trade agenda of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We advise RVO (Netherlands Enterprise Agency) – which coordinates these facilities – on the role of environmental assessment in the project proposals, local obligations for environmental assessment and the environmental assessment procedure to follow.

As part of the Sustainability Advice Programme, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (including the embassies) may request our advice on issues relating to integral sustainable development – for example, relating to consistency of foreign policy, or to the environmental, economic/social and institutional sustainability of specific programmes.

22 environmental assessment advisory reports & 16 capacity development trajectories/ activities

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1.300 people reached and/or trained through presentations and workshops

Knowledge & communication

2.940 e-newsletter subscribers

1.657 followers on twitter

704.720 website visits

65 presentations

15 publications

4 videos

Organisation

36 Employees =153 experts =

16The Netherlands +8 men8 women14,8 fte

15 International +4 men11 women11,1 fte

5 Backoffice1 man4 women2,6 fte

117 The Netherlands +

36 International

Employees per 31 December 2021

Organogram

Finanance

Expenditure

€ 3.314.564 The Netherlands

€ 2.329.543 International - DGIS/Ministry of Foreign Affairs

€ 16.137 International - other

All amounts are in euros
Dutch operating balance does not include budget for our 'knowledge programme'.

The Netherlands 2021 2020
Staffing costs 1.652.288 1.702.423
Remuneration experts (project expenses) 1.423.031 1.296.902
Depreciation 17.913 18.573
Accommodation 116.064 135.559
Administration 20.285 19.690
ICT 47.569 53.115
General expenses 37.414 34.009
Total expenses 3.314.564 3.260.271
Interest and miscellaneous income 21.641 45.082
Income advisory services in the Netherlands 3.785.470 2.863.027
Total income 3.807.111 2.908.109
Balance 492.547 -352.162
Number of advisory reports 160 133
International - DGIS/Ministry of Foreign Affairs 2021 2020
Staffing costs 1.586.731 1.476.359
Remuneration experts (project expenses) 237.356 437.461
Depreciation 18.074 17.480
Accommodation 124.887 116.003
Administration 14.480 14.310
ICT 58.623 63.453
General expenses 41.320 29.810
Unforeseen 22.205 -
Total expenses 2.103.676 2.154.876
Interest and miscellaneous income 3.648 8.271
Contribution from government department (DGIS/Ministry of Foreign Affairs) 2.097.124 2.135.791
Total income 2.100.772 2.144.062
Balance -2.904 -10.814
International - other 2021 2020
Staffing costs 13.401 147.945
Remuneration experts (project expenses) 2.736 23.741
Total expenses 16.137 171.686
Total income international advisory services 6.815 155.173
Balance -9.322 -16.513

Mission & Vision

Mission

The Netherlands Commission for Environmental Assessment (NCEA) - established by law - is an independent not-for-profit knowledge institute in the field of environmental and social impacts. This knowledge is used to advise and support Dutch and foreign governments with the integration of environmental, social and climate considerations in decision-making. This is done with integrity and in an authoritative and transparent manner.

Vision

The NCEA’s work ensures that governmental authorities have access to the knowledge of environmental, social and climate issues they need when making decisions. As a result, governmental decisions are of better quality, better substantiated and more widely supported. In this way, the NCEA contributes to the quality of the living environment and to sustainable development in the Netherlands and abroad.