Two formal types of environmental assessment may be required in tourism planning: environmental impact assessment (EIA) and strategic environmental assessment (SEA).
Major tourism projects and plans may have cross- border impacts or implications. In this case it is important to observe the regulations of the Espoo Convention.
Sustainability Appraisal may be a useful tool for analysing the BIR but has no formal status within the framework of the EU regulation of planning and development.
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
The Directive 85/337/EEC , amended 97/11/EC , requires environmental assessment to be made of major tourism developments (Annex II, 11a; 10 b,c & j may also apply to tourism projects). Countries should have detailed screening criteria for Annex II projects determined in accordance with the criteria in Annex III. However the criteria developed for determining whether an individual project requires an EIA may be less well developed in individual countries.
Methodologies for EIA are well developed and most countries have a developed legal and regulatory framework for EIA as well as capacity to perform EIA. Several international handbooks are available for reference . Good practice criteria for EIA are published by IAIA .
It is important that EIA is included at an early stage in tourism project planning in order to fully make use to the potential to explore environment friendly alternatives and to avoid costly delays and revisions at a late stage. This is especially so if formal permit procedures such as planning permission, project approval under environmental legislation or are necessary for development
Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)
Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) the directive 2001/42/EC requires environmental impact assessment to be made of regional development plans if they for example are used to determine the distribution of EU regional fund support. Project approval presupposes a determination of whether a project has a significant impact or not. This should be done with established EIA methodology. Methodology for SEA is less well established and will have to vary with the type of programme or plan that is under consideration. The official guidance to SEA can be found in the Eu handbook.
SEA for strategic, regional tourism development.
Strategic regional development planning is often carried out at a relatively high level of abstraction or generality. Concrete environmental impacts of such strategic planning may therefore be difficult to predict and assess. Assessment at the appropriate level is an important principle of the SEA-directive. This should however not be done by pushing assessment to a lower level without guidance at the strategic, SEA-level. The handbook on SEA for cohesion policy measures at present provides the best guide to the handling of this difficult problem. It is important to add guidance for lower level SEA/EIA and environmental criteria for project funding at the strategic, regional programme level as part of the SEA work. A brief presentation of the problem is available in Swedish at this time.
"Project part-financed by the European Union (European Regional Development Fund) within the BSR INTERREG III B Neighbourhood programme"