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.