IEA Training Manual - Module 2

3.5.5 Stage 5: Implementation

The implementation stage has three basic components: identification of environmental problems, indicators and sources of data; data collection, analysis and writing; and translation (if needed) and publication. Following are details on the first two components.

Identification of environmental issues and priorities
The identification of environmental issues and priorities requires a series of steps that help participants in the IEA move from a general conceptual framework of the IEA towards specific issues and interrelationships that will be analyzed in the assessment products.

The starting point is a conceptual framework that identifies the key domains of the environment as it interacts with human society. GEO uses a modified version of the drivers-state-impact-response (DPSIR) framework as described in module 1, and this framework has been successfully used also in the context of many national IEAs.

Once the framework is developed a range of environmental issues can be identified involving both expert and stakeholder participation. Issues are more specific than the categories in a conceptual framework, but discussing them does not require deep technical expertise, which would limit the opportunities for stakeholder participation. The result of issue identification is typically a longer list of items that is usually longer than what can be effectively covered in an IEA. Therefore, there is normally a need for prioritization based on criteria. Alternatively, prioritization can happen once there is a list of indicators selected, but prioritization at an early stage can save time and work, as no indicators would be developed for lower priority issues. 
The result of this stage of the process is a short list of clearly formulated priority issues with a clear link to the IEA’s conceptual framework and a strong connection to stakeholders’ concerns about the environment.

Indicators, data collection and analysis
National IEA reports use indicators to quantitatively describe various issues and to track changes. In a national IEA report, the number and type of indicators will depend on the objectives defined by the technical team. The list should include environmental, economic and social indicators. Indicator selection can directly build on the earlier identified priority environmental issues. Typically, indicator selection involves several rounds of discussion first producing a larger list and then narrowing it down to a tighter set of leading indicators based on scientific, policy and feasibility criteria. Indicator selection, data collection, visualization and analysis are described in detail in Module 4.

Due to limitations of time and resources, as well as common technical difficulties in gathering primary data, the technical team is likely to rely on secondary information sources, using information already prepared by various organizations, such as national statistical offices. Information needed for the report is often dispersed, and may require considerable work just to locate. The technical team need to establish agreements with organizations willing to share their files and databases.

This involved two main steps: collecting and processing the information, and analyzing the information and writing the report. The first task often takes more time than expected, mainly because of institutional barriers to information sharing. Once the first task is completed, the next steps are relatively straightforward.

a. Information gathering

Because technical teams usually do not produce primary data, they must acquire it from original sources, often in government agencies. Sometimes, the technical teams have to persuade government officials to get interested in the project and help in the data collection. Such discussions can delay the process.
Once the data is collected, it should be organized and verified. This involves checking the sources of the information to ensure that the data is reliable. Ensure that you have enough time for the task. Then, the data has to be transformed, combined and presented in different ways according to each component of the DPSIR framework. 

Discussion Questions

  1. In order to know the constraints that your IEA process will face, what are the main problems collecting information for the GEO-based report in your country?
  2. Regarding environmental data, do you think is it reliable, and how regularly is it updated?
  3. Sometimes, a report’s conclusions show the lack of environmental information that make it impossible to analyze the magnitude of the problem, Can you think of examples of environmental problems for which there is no monitoring data or it s not accessible?

Round Table Discussion

Discuss how the IEA Process can help organize the collection and assessment of information and the assessment of responses to the report by government and society.

b. Information processing, analysis and writing

The analysis of the data and information compiled sets the stage for the detailed integrated assessment, the main substantive part of the IEA. The underlying conceptual framework of the analysis in IEA is based on the logic of the driving force-pressure-state-impact-response (DPSIR) method, described both in Module 1 and 5. The DPSIR logic also serves as a basis for sequencing the steps of the assessment, although often several analytic processes are run in parallel.

Figure 9: Sample outline of an IEA

The DPSIR logic is also reflected in the structure of IEA reports. Figure 9 shows a possible IEA report structure that is based on this logic, though one has to keep in mind that variations are possible and used by the many countries that undertook or will undertake an IEA. A common dilemma, for example is whether the analysis of environmental trends and dynamics should be separated from the analysis of pressures and policies contributing to change. Some of the dilemmas and options for structuring the main IEA report are discussed below in more detail. These dilemmas need to be considered in each IEA exercise and you need to find a format that both preserves the main analytic elements of the assessment and addresses the information needs of your main audiences.

IEA structure
This stage deals with how to structure the report to get a final product that can be used in national environmental decision making processes. In this stage, it is crucial that participants discuss and agree on the main environmental problems and choose the best way to present the information through the report and associated products.
The technical team should prepare a preliminary report outline and discuss it with stakeholders and participants. The following examples show different ways for preparing the outline. The choice and order of issues will vary among countries, depending on important issues and priorities.

EXAMPLE 1 Table of contents of Cambodia SoE Report – 2003




3.1 Deforestation (timber production, shifting cultivation, clearance of forest areas for rubber plantations, forest encroachments, illegal logging and forest fires).

3.2 Freshwater Management and Fishery (freshwater pollution, groundwater depletion, settlement on shorelines and coastlines, overfishing, illegal fishing, fishing conflicts, aquaculture, floods and droughts).

3.3 Depletion of Biodiversity (loss of habitats, wildlife trade, impact of pesticide uses on species (including aquatic species), impact of tourism, illegal hunting and food security).

3.4 Land Degradation (land use, soil erosion and degradation, sedimentation in Tonle Sap, agricultural activities such as the use of agrochemicals, waterlogging salinization and acidification and mining).

3.5 Degradation of Coastal and Marine Resources (mangrove clearance, loss of coastal habitat, impact of aquaculture, sedimentation, overfishing, trade in marine species, coastal populations and discharge of wastes (from industries and hotels).

3.6 Management and Disposal of Waste and Hazardous Substances (solid waste generation, management and disposal; liquid wastes from industries discharged to rivers and waterbodies; agricultural wastes; toxic and hazardous substances; and human health impacts).


Major policy and monitoring/information gaps, overall recommendations, recommendation of specific proposals, emerging issues and major challenges for the 21st century, including the impact of globalization.


EXAMPLE 2 Table of contents of National Integrated Environmental Assessment Report in Africa


  • Economic growth and development in the country
  • Linkages between economic growth and the environment
  • Poverty and the environment


    • Forest and woodlands
    • Wetlands resources
    • Freshwater resources
    • Coastal and marine environments
    • Biodiversity
    • Urban areas
    • Atmosphere
    • Social welfare and the environment
    • Environmental disasters


    • Environmental policies and reform
    • Legal reforms for environmental management
    • Economic instruments
    • Local initiatives
    • Public participation
    • Environmental planning
    • Environmental information and education
    • Social policies
    • Trans-boundary environmental management

    Chapter IV: THE FUTURE

    • Trends in key environmental issues in the country
    • Emerging issues and practices

Economic, social and institutional overview
This section provides a high-level, retrospective analysis of the country’s socio-economic and institutional conditions and identifies underlying driving forces. Driving forces refer to deep structural changes such as demographic trends or consumption patterns with fundamental influence on human activities that lead to direct pressures on the environment.

The overview can also help to firmly establish the link between environment and development and convey the need to look for the causes and solutions to environmental problems well beyond the environment itself. The economic overview could include not only a description of key macroeconomic parameters, but also, for instance, the country’s approach to international trade or degree of technological advancement. From the social point of view the analysis could include basic demographic figures, information related to human well-being and poverty, or issues related to social capital.

Finally, the section should also describe the institutional framework for environmental and sustainable development governance, including the underlying legal framework, key institutions and division of responsibilities among different layers of government.

Human pressures on the environment
Pressure in the DPSIR terminology refer to human activities with direct influence on environmental conditions. Pressures are typically correlated with driving forces and may refer to processes such as emission of pollutants, conversion from natural to cultural landscapes, or the harvest of renewable natural resources beyond their carrying capacity. Pressures are often combined, for instance land clearing for roads in a pristine forest may be accompanied by increased forest harvest intensity, introduction of non-native species or growing air pollution.

Usually, information on pressures tends to be more easily available because it comes from socio-economic databases (for more details see Module 5).

Assessing the state and trends of the environment
This section presents the actual condition and trends in the environment, resulting from the driving forces and pressures. One of the first decisions to be made about the state of the environment analysis is the way SoE issues should be categorized. Perhaps the most common approach is to follow a hybrid structure based on environmental media and environmental problems. For instance, this could include such aspects of environmental degradation, as levels of air pollution, water contamination and solid waste, as well as changes in biodiversity. Module 5 provides detailed information and examples on some of the more common categories used, but these should not be taken as prescriptive. You should build in sufficient time for consultations with your experts and stakeholders to identify the categories most suitable for your reporting area.

This stage also involves the identification of key indicators and relevant data sources, acquiring the data, organizing the data on a suitable database, data analysis and interpretation. More detailed technical aspects of data and indicators are discussed in Module 4. You need to remember that the IEA should not be driven by data but by the issues and information needs identified by stakeholders.

Assessing policy responses
The assessment of policies can either be integrated with or separated from the SoE analysis. Both approaches have their strengths and advantages: separating the two sections leads to a more disjointed report where environmental state issues and their underlying policy causes are discussed separately; on the other hand, discussing policy responses together in one section may lead to a more coherent comparative analysis.

Policy analysis is a conceptually complex area and often requires either the collaboration of science-based and policy experts or experts well versed in analyzing environmental issues on the interface of science and policy. From the substantive point of view policy analysis involves the identification of public or private sector policy drivers that contributed to earlier demonstrated environmental change and assessing their effectiveness. It may also involve pointing out policy gaps. In order to help identify relevant policies Module 5 provides a general typology and further detail on the methodology of policy analysis.

Analyzing the impacts of environmental change
Analyzing the impacts of environmental change has gained increasing prominence in UNEP’s GEO-4 report. Analyzing environmental impacts requires identifying changes in socio-economic or ecological conditions that are significantly influenced by changes in the state of the environment. Typically, the observed impacts are a result of multiple forces of change, some short term and local, others long term and global and everything in-between. You will need to both scan a wide range of impacts and then select priorities to concentrate the analysis on. This will also require consultations in the scoping and more detailed analytic stage. You will also need to remember to try and separate or at least identify cases where impacts are caused or significantly influenced by non-human induced pressures, such as natural disasters.
Further methodological detail on analyzing impacts of environmental change is provided in Module 5.

Policy options and scenarios
Scenario analysis is an essential signature component of IEAs and outlooks. The scenario section builds on SoE and policy analysis and tried to answer these questions: where are we heading; what actions could be taken for a more sustainable future? This can help with long-term planning, and can support applying the precautionary approach to specific issues. By exploring possible future scenarios, decision-makers can get a clearer picture of what tomorrow might bring, and what the impact of alternative decisions is likely to be.
Scenario analysis usually combines quantitative and qualitative elements. The quantitative component requires modelling and may directly build on data and indicators. The qualitative component involves creating and refining descriptive narratives. These two sides of scenario analysis require different methods and skills and a process that helps combine them in coherent scenarios. The process usually involves several iterations of interaction among stakeholders, thematic experts and a core group of ‘integrators’, scenario experts who create the actual scenarios. In cases where capacity for quantitative modelling is limited, countries used only scenario narratives that may be still useful to explore alternative future trajectories and their policy implications in a series of facilitated conversations with participants.

Details of the scenario process are described in Module 6.

Conclusions and recommendations
Preparing recommendations is the final analytic stage of the IEA process, but whether it is required depends on a particular country, In some cases the task of formulating policy options is seen as the realm of the policy process, and decision makers may explicitly request that the IEA does not produce recommendations. However, there are also many examples in the past where recommendations were explicitly requested and were even included in the IEA mandate.

Formulating recommendations builds on all earlier IEA stages, and requires the participation of senior or high level policymakers who may not have been directly involved in earlier stages of the assessment. The technical team may be requested to prepare draft recommendations that then become a starting point for a dialogue, leading to a final set. In order to be effective, recommendations would ideally be connected with strategic policy processes, such as budgeting or long-term strategic planning.

For further details of the scenario concept and process please see Module 6.


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