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The utopian goal of attempting to deliver environmental justice using SEA

Mclauchlan, Anna and Joao, Elsa (2011) The utopian goal of attempting to deliver environmental justice using SEA. Journal of Environmental Assessment Policy and Management, 13 (1). pp. 129-158. ISSN 1464-3332

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Environmental justice is a contested concept. However, it became a high-level policy objective in the United States and, internationally, policy advocates and academics have identified environmental justice as a fundamental part of sustainable development. Policy appraisal, in particular Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), has been cited as a main tool to deliver environmental justice policy. Scotland, a devolved government within the UK, made a high-level policy commitment to environmental justice and linked its delivery to SEA. To evaluate how this was put into practice, this paper analyses Scottish SEA documents produced between 2003 and 2007. The study found that SEA practice in Scotland was not directed towards empirical assessment of environmental justice. More fundamentally, because assessments always reflect specific values, there is no incontestable way to represent environmental justice or injustice empirically. Therefore, this paper argues that environmental justice remains a Utopian goal, with no indisputable means to be achieved.