Environmental assessment is a process of evaluating the likely environmental impacts of proposed plans, programmes and activities affecting the environment during their preparatory phase. With the knowledge gained, we strive for development solutions that are also acceptable from the perspective of environmental protection.
Types of assessment processes
Three types of environmental assessments are carried out in Slovenia: the environmental impact assessment, the strategic environmental impact assessment and the transboundary environmental impact assessment.
An environmental impact assessment is made only for activities that may have significant impact on the environment. It is carried out before obtaining a building permit. Based on the environmental impact assessment, the competent authority issues or refuses to issue the environmental consent. The assessment is mandatory for certain types of activities affecting the environment, while for other activities the need for the assessment is determined in a preliminary procedure.
Strategic environmental impact assessment is performed when the activities of plans and programmes could have an adverse effect on the environment. Strategic environmental impact assessment is mandatory for plans and programmes whose implementation would significantly affect the environment, for activities affecting the environment in protected areas or Nature 2000 sites, and for other activities that might affect waters, cultural heritage, natural resources or human health or increase the risk of natural disasters and other incidents.
If the sphere of influence extends beyond the Slovenian national borders, a transboundary environmental impact assessment is implemented. Through this, we exchange information and cooperate with the competent authorities of all countries involved. The same process takes place for the planned activities of other countries if these could have a significant environmental impact in the Slovenian territory.
Inter-ministerial cooperation for effective environmental protection
Through environmental assessments, spatial planning and the planning of strategies, policies and other activities of the state are directed towards reducing pressures on the environment. We identify significant environmental impacts and work on establishing measures to reduce these impacts at the earliest stage. Because planning involves a clash of various development and environmental protection interests, it is vital that the development and environmental protection contents are compatible. Several ministries and organisations are therefore actively involved in their preparation and harmonisation.
Environmental protection is important for European development
When Slovenia joined the EU, the European regulations which greatly contributed to achieving the targets of environmental protection and nature conservation were transposed into the national legislation through the Environmental Protection Act and the Nature Conservation Act.
The Council Directive on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment, replaced by Directive 2011/92/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council, determines that an environmental impact assessment be carried out prior to activities that significantly affect the environment.
Directive 2001/42/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment lays down the implementation of strategic environmental assessment and thus provides that environmental aspects form part of the preparation and adoption of such plans and programmes.
Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora stipulates an impact acceptability assessment for protected areas and thus contributes towards conservation of biodiversity, favourable status of natural habitats, and protection of endangered plants and animals.
Plans, programmes and activities affecting the environment that extend beyond national borders are governed by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe’s (UNECE) Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (the Espoo Convention) and the Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment (the SEA Protocol) to the Espoo Convention. There is an agreement to comply with the requirements between EU Member States and other parties to the Espoo Convention.