Strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is a tool that contributes to informed decisions in support of sustainable development by incorporating environmental considerations into the development of public policies and strategic decisions.
The Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals sets out the expectations of ministers and Cabinet on when a SEA should be conducted and what it should consider. It requires that the environmental analysis be fully integrated into the proposal development process. It specifies that ministers expect a SEA when the following two conditions are met:
The Guidelines for the Implementation of the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals (the Guidelines) describe the overall process and guiding principles for SEA. The Guidelines were updated in October 2010 and include new public and parliamentary reporting requirements and consideration of the impacts of the proposal on the goals and targets of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.
When a detailed assessment of environmental effects has been conducted through a SEA, departments and agencies are required to issue a public statement on the environmental effects of the proposal.
SEA is a self-assessment process whereby federal departments and agencies are responsible for implementing the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals. To assist this effort, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has developed guidance material.