Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) can be a useful tool in the pursuit of achieving sustainable development. It is used to assess the environmental consequences of proposed policies, plans and programmes (PPP) and also ensures that environmental knowledge is integrated at an early stage into the decision-making process. The use of indicators in the SEA process can facilitate a more simple presentation of the complex impacts and relationships that arise from development. However, designing indicators for SEA raises questions concerning general public participation, expert consultation and decision making, such as: How inclusive will the system be in relation to environmental, economic and social indicators? And how can the appropriate aggregation level for indicators be found? This paper makes a comparative study of the experiences of using indicators in SEA in two European countries and China, in order to investigate the following questions: Are indicators used when performing an assessment? How are they used? Do indicators lead to opportunities or limitations in an evaluation process? And, are they positive or negative in providing information for decision making? Through a review of national SEA legislation and guidelines, this paper evaluates the different requirements related to indicator use within SEA in different national contexts. Furthermore, technical questions of how to design and use indicators in SEA are investigated. Finally, it is explored, from a political perspective, how the use of indicators influences communication during the SEA process.
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EASY-ECO Conference on Sustainable Development Evaluations in Europe, 2010