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Strategic Environmental Assessment in Air Quality Planning in Germany

Ulrike Weiland

elni Review 2019, pp. 10-17.

Despite successes in immission control, significant increases of limit value transgressions of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter have been observed in Germany in the last years. Health impacts of these pollutants range from impaired respiratory function to increased mortality due to cardiovascular diseases, with high short-term as well as lower long-term exposure both being relevant to health. Air quality planning as sectoral planning for immission control should ensure or at least contribute to improved air quality in developed areas, especially in large cities.
Under certain preconditions, strategic environmental assessments (SEAs) have to be carried out for air quality plans (AQPs). These SEAs should ensure that air quality planning pursues an integrative environmental approach, and that the intended air quality policies do not negatively impact other environmental aspects such as biodiversity, water, landscape, or sites of the NATURA 2000 network. To date, little is known about the requirements and practice of conducting SEAs in air quality planning. 
Because SEAs are integrated in the preparation and updating of AQPs, several issues of air quality planning relevant for SEAs are first presented. Then, hints regarding relevant legal aspects of SEA performance, procedures and methods are given. This contribution presents results of an empirical analysis of roughly one hundred AQPs from 2010 – 2016. Thereafter it is investigated, whether a SEA could have been necessary because of potential significant effects on a NATURA 2000 site. By means of a comparison of legal requirements for the SEA performance with SEA practice, the article appraises to what extent SEA practice in AQP meets these requirements. Finally, conclusions are drawn from the investigation results.

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