Global uptake of proportionate approaches to Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) will drive improved practice and support future decision making, says IEMA.
The sustainability body has launched (on 18 July) a strategy for collaborative action to deliver more proportionate EIA. IEMA says this drive is needed to counteract the current “obesity crisis” around the practice.
In recent years, EIA practice has become increasingly more complex in line with the advancing knowledge and experience of practitioners. A spokesperson for IEMA says that while this has significantly improved the quality of EIA practice, the outcome is not universally positive.
“An increasing number of countries are now beginning to see examples of disproportionate EIA, in terms of their length, scope and treatment of risk, which can make understanding the key environmental impacts of a proposed development difficult,” said Josh Fothergill, Policy Lead at IEMA.
“We’re looking at an EIA obesity crisis, and it’s making findings inaccessible and adds undue burdens for developers. With this strategy, we want to stimulate collaborative actions to improve the situation here in the UK to deliver more proportionate, and therefore more valuable, EIA” he continued.
The strategy stems from the UK’s first Proportionate EIA Summit, held in 2016, where IEMA brought together 13 stakeholder groups from across the UK’s consenting and assessment community to scrutinise practice. The outcome is a world first – a national strategy designed to enable a co-ordinated and collaborative response across the UK’s EIA community to deliver more proportionate EIA.
This strategy – the core of which is outlined below and available for free download from iema.net – includes a selection of inspiring examples of existing initiatives to deliver more proportionate assessment. The launch is both a call to arms to all those who value UK EIA and an invitation to join IEMA in modernising this key sustainable development tool.
THE UK’S PROPORTIONATE EIA STRATEGY
Vision: EIA is widely recognised as delivering valuable and accessible information that positively influences development design and consenting to the benefit of developers, communities and the environment.
There is no agreed definition of ‘proportionate EIA’. If it’s goal is viewed as a desire to reduce the number and length of EIAs, then the benefits will be missed. This vision is about adding value to the consenting process by making the process and outputs more efficient and effective. In the future, ‘proportionate EIA’ should become synonymous with good practice. Inevitably, some EIAs will need to be lengthy, but every element within that deliverable should earn its place.
Four Strategic Themes for Action: The four themes below encompass the multitude of actions that were identified during the UK’s Proportionate EIA Summit.
· Enhancing People – so that those involved in EIA have the skills, knowledge and confidence to avoid an overly precautionary approach.
· Improving Scoping – to generate a more consistently focussed approach to this critical activity throughout the EIA process.
· Sharing Responsibility – recognising that disproportionate EIA is driven by many factors and that the enabling proportionate assessment will require collaborative actions that work towards a shared goal.
· Embracing Innovation & Digital – modernising EIA to deliver effective and efficient assessment and reporting that adds value to projects and their interaction with the environment.
Call to Action – The strategy provides a framework upon which action and initiatives can be built across different stakeholders within the EIA Community. The next step is for leaders in the EIA community to step up and organise. There actions should facilitate a suite of activity that converts the clear enthusiasm for proportionate EIA into positive and co-ordinated initiates to:
· Promote the vision for the UK’s proportionate EIA future
· Engage key stakeholders and representative bodies in implementing the strategy
· Catalyse actions and initiatives around the four key themes of people, scoping, collaboration and innovation & digital
· Develop a proportionate EIA Charter, creating a positive and visible campaign around which a coalition of the willing can rally
You can download a free copy of Delivering Proportionate EIA – A Collaborative Strategy for Enhancing UK Environmental Impact Assessment Practice at iema.net.