Paper: SEA of Spanish river basin plans and climate change: A checklist study
Session: Strategic environmental assessment and climate change
Introduction
Southern Europe is among the world territories with special vulnerability to climate change. Due to its geographical location and socioeconomic characteristics, Spain is particularly sensible to the impacts linked to decreased precipitation and increased temperature, such as increasing water demand from the agricultural, industrial and domestic sectors, lower crop yields, increasing risks of droughts and biodiversity loss, forest fires and heat waves. In addition, the hydropower sector will be most affected by lower water availability, while the tourism industry will face less favourable conditions (EEA, 2005). In fact, many of these impacts are actually taking place across the country (MMA, 2000). The relevance of water planning for the responsible development of agriculture, industry, urbanization, infrastructure and business justifies the analysis of how climate change is being taken into account in the formulation of river basin management plans in Spain.
Spain has a long record in water planning, beginning by the end of the XIX century, but until recently it was almost exclusively oriented towards the satisfaction of water demands, mainly for irrigation agriculture. By the last decades of the XX century the traditional model of hydraulic policy had came into crisis, due to the rapid and incremental water demands in front of limited available resources (Saurí & del Moral, 2001). Aggravation of environmental impacts, such as water quality loss and degradation of aquatic ecosystems, and of political confrontation between regional territories, together with the changing economic perspectives and international context, all led to a change of model for water planning. The recent adoption of the European Water Framework Directive (EC, 2000) represents the last milestone in this evolving planning paradigm, complementing the traditional focus on demand satisfaction with that on demand management, and accounting for the objective of reaching a good ecological and chemical status of all waters by 2015. Implementing the Water Framework Directive (WFD) includes the production of management plans for each river basin district, taking account of the impact of human activity on water, the areas requiring special protection and the economic analysis of water use. Such management plans should cover the period 2009-2015 and must be implemented in 2012. Full implementation of WFD should help to increase ecological and societal resilience and facilitate the adaptation efforts to climate change.
In this paper we analyze how climate change (CC) is being considered in the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) process of the Spanish river basin management plans (RBMP) formulated on the basis of the WFD. Discussion topics include strategic impacts and their relationship with CC (both as a cause and as a receiver of CC impacts), the opportunities achieved and failed and, finally, the global influence and relevance of SEA process from a critical point of view.
Materials and methods
A checklist has been developed and applied in order to study how CC is being considered in the SEA process of RBMP based on the WFD. The analysis covers the main procedural stages during SEA: 1) The scoping stage, including the preparation of a preliminary environmental report by the river basin management authority, as well as preliminary consultations and reference guidance delivered by environmental authorities; 2) The preparation of the environmental sustainability report, which is the key assessment report in the Spanish SEA administrative procedure; and 3) The draft RBMPs, when available.
The checklist follows the contents required by European SEA Directive (2001/42/EC), adapted to the Spanish jurisdiction through Law 9/2006 on the assessment of the effects of specific plans and programmes on the environment. It considers key research issues and best practice indicators selected by the authors on the basis of EU reference documents (EEA, 2005; EC, 2009), IPCC assessment reports (Bates et al., 2008), the Spanish national strategy on CC (MARM, 2007) and others (Ecologic, 2007; Levett-Therivel at al., 2007). Included are how sustainability principles and environmental objectives related with CC have been considered, the analysis of other relevant plans, the definition of future scenarios for planning, the use of projections of water demands and supply, the definition and adoption of mitigation and adaptation measures, and the monitoring and assessment of proposed measures.
In order to test the checklist, five Spanish SEA processes on RBMP have been analyzed (Table 1). At the time of writing, the SEA processes of the first four plans are in the stage of consulting on the draft plan and the environmental report. The fifth plan, the Júcar RBMP, is in the stage of preparing the environmental report.
Table 1. Spanish River Basin Management Plans analyzed
Name of the river basin
Area (km²)
Population
Population density
1.
Tinto-Odiel-Piedras
6,871
388,000
56
2.
Guadalquivir
57,527
4,107,598
71
3.
Duero
78,859
2,210,541
28
4.
Miño-Sil
17,619
75,000
94
5.
Júcar
42,851
5,162,000
120
Answers to the questions included in the checklist were classified in four types, representing different levels of consideration of the research issues by the RBMP: Totally considered (TC); Partially considered (P), when it was incomplete or unfocussed; Indirectly considered (I), when it was considered through another objective or goal; Not considered (0).
Results
Results of the analysis are summarized in Table 2.
Table 2. Consideration of climate change (CC) issues in the SEA process of River Basin Management Plans (RBMP; numeration according to Table 1) in Spain.
Research issues
RBMP
1
2
3
4
5
SCOPING
Preliminary environmental report / Initial document
§ CC principles/objectives.
0
0
0
P
0
§ CC impacts taken into account in plan content:
0
0
0
P
P
o  Climate/weather changes.
0
0
0
0
P
o  Direct / indirect CC impacts on water resources. Pressures and impacts from human activity.
0
0
0
P
P
o  Plan alternatives to deal with key CC related problems.
0
0
0
0
0
§ CC is taken into account in plan projections and future scenarios.
0
0
P
P
P
§ CC is taken into account in future phases of the WFD implementation.
TC
0
TC
P
0
§ Effects of plan alternatives on the CC objectives.
0
0
0
P
0
§ National and regional CC mitigation/adaptation strategies and plans.
0
0
TC
TC
TC
§ Relevant sectoral plans related to water management and affected by CC.
0
0
0
0
0


Initial consultations
§ Authorities responsible for CC management and others who can provide advice on good practice.
TC
TC
TC
TC
TC
§ Consultation bodies.
I
I
I
I
I
§ Sectoral authorities/agents affected by water demand and CC.
0
P
P
0
0
Terms of Reference for the Environmental Report
§ CC criteria/principles included.
P
P
P
P
P
§ CC objectives and indicators that take account of future CC.
0
P
P
P
P
§ Suggested plan alternatives to deal with key CC related problems.
0
P
P
P
P
§ Climate/weather changes.
0
P
P
P
P
§ Direct/indirect CC impacts on water resources. Pressures and impacts from human activity.
0
P
P
P
P
ENVIRONMENTAL REPORT
RBMP contents
§ CC considered in the following issues at least:
o  Characteristics of the River Basin.
0
P
0
P
o  Significant pressures and impacts from human activity.
0
P
0
P
o  Environmental objectives (WFD).
0
0
0
P
o  Economic analysis of water use.
0
P
0
0
o  Programme of measures.
0
P
0
0
§ Mitigation / adaptation alternatives to deal with CC related problems.
P
0
0
0
Plan objectives
§ Develop CC objectives and indicators that take account of future CC:
o  Minimise future CC.
0
0
P
P
o  Reduce vulnerability to the impacts of CC.
0
P
P
P
o  Make best use of the benefits of CC (if any).
0
0
0
0
Other relevant plans related
§ National/Regional CC Mitigation/Adaptation Strategies/Plans/Activities.
P
P
P
P
§ Relevant sectoral plans (irrigation, hydropower, town planning) related to water management and affected by CC.
0
0
0
0
Current and likely state of the environment
§ Describe current CC baseline.
0
P
0
P
§ Describe future CC baseline (models, projections and scenarios).
0
P
0
P
Environmental problems
§ Identify likely significant problems and constraints caused by CC (water quality, biodiversity, water demands and availability, etc.).
P
P
0
P
§ Describe current and likely environmental baselines of potentially affected areas by RBMP and CC.
0
0
0
P
§ Describe the environmental problems related with CC.
0
P
0
TC
Environmental protection objectives
§ EU/National/Regional commitments on CC.
0
0
0
0
§ Develop CC objectives and indicators that take CC into account.
I
I
I
I
Likely significant effects on the environment
§ Assess the effects of plan alternatives on CC objectives/indicators.
P
P
P
P
§ Consider their impacts on GHG emissions, and their ability to integrate CC adaptation measures when selecting the preferred alternatives.
0
0
0
0
§ Refer to, or summarise, the findings of the flood risk assessments.
0
0
0
0
Environmental mitigation measures
§ Proposal of modified/new CC mitigation and adaptation measures to be integrated in the final plan.
0
0
0
0
§ Mitigation measures:
o  Reducing the need for energy.
I
I
I
I
o  Improving energy efficiency.
0
0
0
0
o  Switching to low-carbon fuels.
0
0
0
0
o  Increasing % renewable energy.
0
0
0
0
o  Improving waste and land use practices to reduce emissions.
0
0
0
0
o  Maintaining and enhancing carbon sequestration by natural carbon sinks, and reducing the loss of carbon.
0
I
I
P


§ Adaptation measures:
o  Ensuring adequate future water supply and demand management and drainage provision for future development.
P
P
P
P
o  Reduce water leakage and water use.
P
P
P
P
o  Improve drainage, ensuring that drainage systems can cope with changing rainfall patterns/intensity.
P
P
P
P
o  Taking a precautionary and risk-based approach to developing in the floodplain.
I
I
I
I
o  Increase resilience to flooding through sustainable urban drainage systems.
I
I
I
I
o  Ensure that infrastructure and service developments are resilient to new climatic conditions.
0
0
0
0
o  Upgrade sewage systems to cope with increased rainfall intensity.
I
I
I
I
o  Encourage the use of rainwater, grey water and recycled sewage.
P
P
P
P
o  Avoiding actions that foreclose or limit future adaptation.
0
0
0
0
o  Developing ecologically resilient and varied landscapes.
I
I
I
I
o  Establishing ecological networks.
I
I
I
I
o  Support diversification of the rural economy.
0
0
0
0
Reasons for selecting the alternatives dealt with
§ Assess the effects of plan alternatives on CC objectives and indicators.
P
P
P
P
§ Explain how uncertainty has been managed.
0
0
0
0
Monitoring
§ Effectiveness of mitigation measures in reducing GHG emissions.
0
0
I
I
§ Whether adaptation measures are implemented (effectiveness likely to be difficult to monitor)
0
0
0
0
§ Measures / instruments to respond to adverse CC impacts.
0
0
0
0
§ Include monitoring indicators that take into account future CC.
P
P
P
P
Non-technical summary
§ Explain how CC issues have been identified and managed.
0
0
0
0
TC: totally considered; P: partially considered; I: indirectly considered; 0: not considered
Discussion and conclusions
The consideration of climate change issues in the scoping stage was irregular among the different aspects and plans analyzed. Particularly deficient was the content of the preliminary reports, especially due to their generalised lack of CC-related specific objectives, alternatives proposed to deal with CC challenges, and consideration of sectoral plans related to water management, such as irrigation, hydropower or town planning, likely to be affected by CC. Strikingly, RBMP #2 made no reference at all to CC in its initial document, and #3 only considered it as an important factor for future phases or planning cycles in the WFD implementation schedule.
Initial consultations reached CC-responsible authorities in all cases, and often other interested consultation bodies, such as those responsible of preventing flood risk, water availability and quality and natural environment, were also given audience. Contrarily, other important sectoral authorities and agents affected, such as agriculture or town planning related ones, were less considered.
With the exception of one case (#1), the terms of reference for the environmental reports of analyzed RBMP (key stage of the SEA process) included all relevant CC issues. However it seems that they not defined clear mechanisms or instruments for the integration of these issues in the planning process, taking into account the deficiencies found in the environmental reports.
Only four environmental reports were available and the analysis of how the different issues were considered also showed an irregular and insufficient treatment of CC. Null consideration of CC was detected in regard to its potential benefits (if any) or its interaction with other sectoral plans related to water management. Further, the RBMP’s objectives for environmental protection did not take into account the EU, National or Regional commitments on CC, nor did they consider the impacts on GHG emissions and the potential to integrate CC adaptation measures when selecting the preferred alternatives. Importantly, the findings of the flood risk assessment in the basins were neither referred.
The proposed mitigation measures excluded in all four cases those related to the improvement of energy efficiency, the switch to low-carbon fuels, the increment of the share of renewable energy, and the improvement of waste and land use practices to reduce emissions. This lack of ambition in relation to wider planning issues was also detected in the proposed adaptation measures, which, centred on water-related aspects, did not include resilience enhancements in infrastructure and service developments, nor diversification initiatives of the rural economy. The explanation of how uncertainty was managed, the control of the implementation of adaptation measures during monitoring, and the measures or instruments anticipated to response to CC impacts were also ignored by all four plans. Finally, the non-technical summaries did not include an explanation of how CC issues had been identified and managed.
It can be concluded that in spite of the WFD commitment with environmental objectives, CC is not being satisfactorily incorporated in the planning process of the Spanish river basins. Although CC issues are mentioned in the five RBMP analyzed, CC seems to be considered as an exogenous factor to the planning and assessment processes, resulting in a partial, indirect and insufficient account of the key relevant aspects. This circumstance evidences a lack of effective and ambitious integration of CC in the water planning process in Spain, in spite of the tight relations between both. In the light of the analyzed experience, it seems doubtful that desirable integration of CC issues into the present cycle of water planning in Spain could be achieved.
The checklist presented in this paper proved helpful in the analysis of the integration of CC issues in the planning process of river basin management through the SEA process.
References
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