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Environmental Mainstreaming
Integrating environment into development institutions and decisions

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Environment Inside - 12. Defining the outcomes to achieve


[Chapter to be further developed]



Describing effective environmental mainstreaming – outcomes1

This Part of Environment Inside distils lessons and evidence on effective mainstreaming, drawn from an assessment of experience to date.

Firstly, it is important to be clear on the kinds of outcomes that describe a country, sector or institution which has ‘mainstreamed’ environment. We propose a spectrum of outcomes of environmental mainstreaming – ranging from ‘upstream’ to ‘downstream’ changes:

  1. Greater participation and interaction between environment and development stakeholders;
  2. Integrated environment-development policy and associated political will / leadership;
  3. Inclusion of development-environment linkages in national and sector plans;
  4. Inclusion of development-environment linkages in budgets and fiscal instruments;
  5. Strengthened institutions and capacities to mainstream environment;
  6. Improved domestic and foreign resource mobilization for environmental investments;
  7. Sustained behavioural change by individuals, institutions, and society, in both public and private domains – production, consumption and waste treatment processes improve;
  8. Ultimate impacts of these outcomes on human and ecosystem wellbeing.

Improved access to environmental and natural resources, especially for the poor

Boxes 12.1, 12.2, 12.3 and 12.4 provide some country examples of effective mainstreaming that illustrate the range of useful outcomes, or principles and steps – as well as suggest tools and approaches that work.


Box 12.1: Promoting effective environmental mainstreaming through national learning groups: examples from Tanzania and Zambia


An IIED-facilitated learning group of environment and development experts met in 2006, co-hosted by the Vice-President’s Office and WWF-Tanzania. It addressed the ways in which the national development and poverty reduction plan (MKUKUTA) had included environmental issues. The group concluded that a ‘planning gap’ had been bridged, notably through:

  • The joint mandate of the Vice-President’s Office for both poverty reduction and environment.
  • Outcome-based development planning processes (as opposed to ‘priority sectors’). This allowed environmental interests to show what they can contribute to all outcomes.
  • A special environmental expenditure review being included in public expenditure reviews – asking questions of how environmental assets and hazards are being managed – which was a critical turning point in greatly improving the government budget for environment.
  • An effective donor coordination group on environment, which worked well in government.

The learning group moved on to recommend ways in which to tackle ‘investment, capacity and decentralisation gaps’ to ensure that environment was acted on in development:

  • The environmental investment gap – firstly requires the identification of priorities amongst the MKUKUTA’s many targets, thus making up for severe under-investment in environmental assets for pro-poor growth and livelihoods. This needs better economic assessment.
  • The environmental capacity gap – the need especially for environmental information/monitoring systems and institutional development to enable environmental authorities and management bodies to meet new responsibilities for securing environmental services in support of development.
  • A power shift towards localisation and environment-dependent stakeholders – the MKUKUTA conducted the biggest-ever national consultation on environmental issues: the challenge is how to maintain this momentum and empower people to take part in MKUKUTA implementation.

For report, see Assey et al. (2007).


An environmental mainstreaming (EM) learning group retreat was organised in September 2008 for 12 leading environmental champions from government, private sector, NGOs and academia. Hosted by the Ministry of Finance and National Planning (MFNP) and the Environmental Council of Zambia (ECZ), and facilitated by IIED, the retreat aimed to review how far the twin endeavours of environment and development had become linked over the years in Zambia. It considered some of the main EM approaches used to date in Zambia and (through brainstorming) identified areas of progress, lessons from this experience and recommendations for improving EM:

Several key lessons were identified:

  1. To truly integrate environment and development objectives requires work on many tracks. These include education and awareness, piloting, public administration reform, political debate, and both civic and private entrepreneurship – as well as improved planning processes. There is no single ‘fast track’ to mainstreaming.

  2. Considerable progress is made when a multi-stakeholder approach to environment-development issues is taken. For example, in Zambia the National Conservation Strategy, community wildlife management, and effective mine clean-up processes involved various sectors and disciplines.

    It is most productive to concentrate on the key ‘mainstream’ institutions and processes, notably the central economic, financial and physical planning processes, urban and regional plans, and associated national and decentralised plans.

    Early and proactive ‘mainstreaming’ activities can assist a positive, ‘can-do’ approach by spotting environmental opportunities for development. In contrast, if mainstreaming is too late, it tends to focus on environmental problems.

  1. A focus on specific real opportunities and problems, in real places, facing real people, can be a better incentive for actual mainstreaming than a general exhortation to ‘include the environment in all aspects of development’.

Build on existing sources of resilience for adapting to change. For example, communities’ coping strategies for handling climate variability are a sound basis for handling climate change.

Challenges for the future include:

  • A more systematic approach to EM:
    • EM needs to focus on the central National Development Plan (NDP) process – ensuring that environment is addressed in all sector chapters, and links to all cross-cutting issues;
    • Information and Communications Technology (ICT) solutions can efficiently link environmental information (State of Environment report) with development information.
  • Improve capacity for EM:
    • The capacity of Zambian environment authorities needs to be strengthened to collaborate with each other and with mainstream agencies – for the latter in making economic cases;
    • The capacity of the finance and planning ministries and local government as key ‘entry points’ for environment authorities to work with; especially the economics of environmental management and infrastructure, e.g. rates of return and accessing (international) sources of investment.
  • Enable sectors to integrate positive and negative environmental issues:
    • Develop simple environmental guidelines / standards for each sector;
    • Establish ‘environmental units’ in sector ministries – the experience of such a unit in the Ministry of Mines can be built upon;
    • Introduce new tools especially for policy change, with Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) now positioned to help resolve a number of critical policy issues in e.g. biofuels and new mining developments

For report, see Aongola et al.(2009)

Box 12.2: Effective mainstreaming using Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)

Greening the PRSP in Benin

Nenin takes part in the Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) -programme and receives aid from the World Bank. On that account Benin developed a first Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) in 2003. In this PRSP, the Environment had only been taken into account as a separate sector and no cross-cutting analysis had been made. Due to the lack of measurable environmental indicators the Beninese Environmental Agency (Agence Béninoise de l’Environnement, ABE) decided to initiate the “greening” of the second PRSP and managed to garner the support of Beninese stakeholders and international actors such as the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the United Nations Development Progamme (UNDP) and the Netherland’s Commission for Environmental Assessment (NCEA). The ABE carried out and coordinated a participatory Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of the second PRSP in 2006-07 - while it was being drafted. Environmental issues are now covered both in a sectoral and a cross-cutting manner in the second PRSP. Several challenges, however, still need to be tackled.

Source: Dagba et al. (2009)

Influencing hydropower plans in Vietnam

In order to meet a rapidly growing demand for energy, the Sixth National Power Development Plan (PDP) proposes to increase electricity supply, mainly through expanding generation from coal, gas and hydropower. Under the PDP, some 60 large (and numerous other) hydropower projects will be constructed throughout the country.

The Quang Nam Province Hydropower Plan (2006-2015) was approved in 2006 by the Quang Nam Provincial People’s Committee (PPC) and the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT). It incorporated nearly 40 hydropower projects, including 8 large (range 60-225 MW) schemes. Since approval, the number of proposed projects has risen to 60.

Given the scale of hydropower planning and the relatively short implementation schedule, the management of complex and cumulative environmental, social and economic impacts will be a critical issue for sustainable development in Viet Nam. Potential impacts are likely to include: positive and negative effects on different economic sectors; changes in hydrological processes and water supply; and threats to terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem integrity and functions. The rich cultural diversity of some of Viet Nam’s 54 ethnic minority groups – who predominate in many upland areas targeted for hydropower development – are also likely to be disproportionally affected through loss of land, livelihoods and resettlement; and may face increased exposure to social risks such as HIV/AIDS.

A participatory SEA was conducted engaging a range of local and national government stakeholders in identifying 80 environmental, social and economic issues important for development in the basin. These were consolidated to 15 key themes to focus detailed trend analysis. This identified four critical strategic concerns associated with hydropower development in the basin: (i) integrity of ecosystems, (ii) water supply, (iii) impacts on ethnic minority groups, and (iv) economic development in Quang Nam and Da Nang Provinces. the SEA concluded that the pace and scale of the proposed hydropower developments could not be sustained and highlighted a number of concerns regarding changes in the hydrological dynamics of the basin, which were likely to affect baseline environmental flows – with serious ecological and water supply impacts.

The SEA outcomes were reviewed at a national workshop involving key ministries and provincial leaders. The Provincial Chairman emerged as an environmental champion. He strongly supported the SEA process and suggested that hydropower plans and strategies had been made without looking at the ‘big picture’, and as a result these projects might have negative impacts on the environment.

A number of the recommendations of the SEA have been implemented, including: (i) a freeze on all hydropower development within the Song Thanh Nature Reserve in the Vu Gia-Thu Bon River Basin (VGTB); (ii) the trialling of benefit sharing mechanisms for hydropower in the VGTB by the Electricity Regulator of Vietnam (with support from ADB and WWF); and (iii) the restructuring of the VGTB River Basin Organisation and the development of an updated river basin plan (with support from ADB).

Source: Dunn (2009)


Box 12.3: Effective mainstreaming at the municipal level:
examples from South Africa

Open space planning in Durban, South Africa

The eThekwini municipality is situated within the Kwa-Zulu Natal province of South Africa and is home to one of South Africa’s major tourism cities, Durban. Due to its coastal location and warm climate, Durban has become a major tourist attraction. It is also the largest port city in South Africa. EThekwini has instituted a five-year, regularly reviewed programme to achieve sustainable development. Key performance areas have been identified and indicators and targets established to track performance. One of the major target areas is open space planning. This is strongly influenced by sustainability criteria which require that the natural resource base becomes a vehicle for meeting basic human needs, improving quality of life, facilitating and enhancing development, and ensuring the long-term ecological viability of the cities diverse ecosystem. Ethekwini’s sustainable development approach consciously builds the principles of sustainability into the ways they promote economic development, provide infrastructure and services, manage the cities finances, and protect threatened ecological spaces.

Source: eThikwini-official site of the City of Durban

Integrated Metropolitan Environmental Policy, City of Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town’s unique natural and cultural environment has made it one of the most sought after tourist destinations in the world. Due to its location within the Cape Floristic Kingdom, Cape Town is not only an economic hub but also a biodiversity hot spot. The coupling of these factors highlights the need for strategic action plans that will ensure the long-term persistence of this high quality environment. Recognising this need, the Environmental Resource Management Department is implementing the City of Cape Town’s Integrated Metropolitan Environmental Policy (IMEP). IMEP forms the framework for a number of strategies and programmes which aim to ensure that the principles of sustainability are adhered to. The IMEP is a commitment to the development of sectoral strategies which will detail goals, targets, programmes and actions needed to ensure sustainable resource use and management of this unique environment for the benefit of all. The four lead strategies are; Biodiversity, Energy and Climate Change, Coastal Zone Management, and Environmental Education and Training. Under these strategies, a number of programmes are underway, e.g. the biodiversity strategy which identifies a network of biodiversity sites that need to be secured to conserve a representative sample of the city’s unique biodiversity and thus promote sustainable development.

Source: City of Capetown Official Website


Box 12.4: Some examples of ‘conscious’ environmental mainstreaming
in the Caribbean

Participants in EM survey workshops in the Caribbean conducted by CANARI indentified the following examples of ‘conscious environmental mainstreaming’:

  • Several islands have strengthened legislation and or standards/guidelines concerning the use of EIAs and other impact assessments for physical development projects. Trinidad and Tobago appears to have the most advanced legislation and codes of conduct for its Certificates of Environmental Clearance (CECs) and EIAs.

  • Jamaica is developing (a) a new Act that combines planning and environmental management and is in the process of adopting an SEA policy which “will require all relevant policies that are developed or revised to address environmental impacts”, and (b) a policy relating to the divestment of government land which includes environmental considerations.

  • Integration of environmental issues into national school curricula, notably in Jamaica where environmental issues have been “incorporated throughout the curriculum for Grades 1-9”.

  • Adoption by businesses of international standards (notably ISO 14000) has had a knock-on effect of demanding similar standards throughout the supply chain.

  • Legal challenge: In a landmark case in Jamaica in 2006, a high court judge ruled in favour of Northern Jamaica Conservation Association (NJCA), Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) and four individuals in a Judicial Review case concerning the granting of an environmental permit for part of a planned 1,918-room hotel in Runaway Bay. Trinidad’s Environmental Commission acts as the court for legal challenges and the process has been used on at least one occasion (unsuccessfully) by a civil society organisation to object to the granting to an energy company of a Certificate of Environmental Clearance.

  • The Jamaican government has introduced Green Procurement Guidelines.

  • In Jamaica, a data-sharing Memoranda of Understanding has been agreed between the Water Resources Agency and other government agencies with a role in water protection to set a framework for sharing of information and to seek consensus on roles and functions of each agency to prevent overlap and duplication).

Source: CANARI (2009)


12.1 The range of environmental mainstreaming outcomes

It might reasonably be argued that successful environmental mainstreaming is achieved once government line ministries and sector departments, and aid cooperation agencies’ operational departments and country offices, assume ‘environmental responsibility’ and routinely address environmental issues, factoring them into decisions.

Reaching such a ‘mature’ stage should provide an opportunity to downsize bespoke environment departments so that they take on more of a coordination, advisory and monitoring function. For example, in its 2002 reorganisation, the Asian Development Bank noted that:

Operational departments should be responsible for addressing and delivering products for meeting these [environmental and social`] objectives—a process often known as “mainstreaming.” Delivery of products and services in these areas should be organizationally separated from policy development and compliance oversight.2

Accordingly, the ADB disbanded the Office of Environment and Social Development and many environmental specialists were reassigned to operational departments. A new Regional and Sustainable Development Department was established which includes an Environment and Social Safeguards Division to support the strategic focus and quality of ADB operations in the environment area and promotes compliance of ADB operations with safeguard policies. In many developing countries, too, e.g. Mozambique and Uganda, environmental authorities are now supposed to play coordinating roles. However, they often revert to core environmental functions because environment has not yet been integrated in e.g. line ministries and local authorities: the mainstreaming outcome is on paper only.

Thus environmental mainstreaming covers a range of possible outcomes, some of which will be a prerequisite to others. It is important to know which levels are being aimed at:

Table 12.1 proposes a spectrum of outcomes, ranging from ‘upstream’ (influencing a policy, plans, budget, decision, etc) to ‘downstream’ (changing behaviours and delivering environmental improvements ‘on-the-ground’).

Table 12.1: A spectrum of outcomes of environmental mainstreaming:








  1. Participation and democratic process outcomes:
  • Greater interaction of environment and development stakeholders
  • Widened involvement of stakeholders in making the case for the importance of environment to growth and development
  • Improved involvement of environmentally-dependent/vulnerable stakeholders
  1. Policy and political outcomes:
  • High-level macro-economic, fiscal, development and social policy, constitutions and statements of national vision, includes environmental considerations
  • Political leadership across all parties is broadly supportive of sustaining environment in the development process
  1. Plan outcomes:
  • Inclusion of development-environment linkages in national development and poverty reduction strategies.
  • Inclusion of development-environment linkages in sector plans and implementation strategies
  • Environment is reflected both as a sector or range of sectors (e.g. for environmental protection and environmental service delivery) and as a cross-cutting issue for all other sectors in the plan (e.g. as safeguards and as potentials for co-benefits)
  1. Budget outcomes:
  • Inclusion of development-environment linkages in national and sector budgets
  • Fiscal instruments informed by development-environment linkage
  1. Institutional and capacity outcomes:
  • A range of appropriate tools/procedures to mainstream environment on a continuing basis is available, recognised and with adequate mandates, skills and resources to employ them
  • Strengthened capacity in key sector ministries to include environmental sustainability into their strategies
  • Strengthened capacity within finance/planning ministries as well as environmental agencies to integrate environment into budget decision-making
  • Strengthened capacity within environment institutions to understand development processes and interact in a constructive manner
  • A range of systemic links between institutions are made, formal and informal, to ensure improved flow of information and ideas
  • Environment is part of core educational and training curricula at all levels
  • Environment-development criteria are established as cross-cutting norms for planning and monitoring purposes
  1. Investment outcomes:
  • Improved domestic resource mobilization for poverty-environment investments
  • Increased donor contributions to country-level environmentally sustainable investment
  • A coherent set of economic of economic and regulatory tools and incentives promote and reward integration and added value, while discouraging inappropriate behaviours
  1. Behavioural outcomes:
  • Sustained behavioural change by individuals, institutions, and society, in both public and private domains –environment is a normal, accepted and expected part of doing business
  • Key patterns and processes of production, consumption and waste treatment in sectors and localities are informed by clear environmental considerations
  • The media and public interest groups regularly address environment-development links
  1. Ultimate (developmental) impacts of these outcomes:
  • Improved productivity and sustainability of use of environmental assets
  • Risks from environmental hazards better managed through informed, targeted control mechanisms
  • Improved and sustained income, safety nets, health and livelihoods for individuals, companies and the public from use of environmental assets; and economic growth
  • Improved access to environmental and natural resources, especially for the poor


1 Much of the synthesis material in this section is from Bass (2009 [link to references])

Chapter Menu
  1. Purpose of EM
  2. Policy framework & mandates
  3. Targeting EM
  4. Main EM issues
  5. Challenges
  6. Concepts and principles
  7. Skills and capabilities
  8. Needs assessment
  9. Capacity development
  10. Institutionalising EM
  11. Environment-poverty-development linkages
  12. Outcomes to achieve
  13. Entry points of EM
  14. Country Evidence
  15. Influencing policy processes
  16. Budgeting and financing
  17. Implementing measures
  18. Influencing national monitoring system
  19. Advocating & communicating EM
  20. Stakeholder responsibilities
  21. Monitoring and evaluation
  22. Key steps in EM
  23. Tool Profiles
  24. Key literature
  25. Case materials
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