Environmental assessment

Environmental assessments are processes which aim to integrate environmental, social and economic concerns into project planning, design and implementation. They analyse and evaluate potential environmental impacts of proposed projects and programmes/policies and provide decision-makers with relevant environmental information.

Environmental impact assessment (EIA) is a process of identifying, predicting and evaluating the foreseeable impacts (positive and negative) of particular activities on the environment, identifying alternatives and mitigating measures.

EIA is high on the international development agenda. It was developed in the 1970s and received international recognition at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992. Principle 17 of the Rio Declaration states: "Environmental Impact Assessment, as a national instrument, shall be undertaken for proposed activities that are likely to have a significant adverse impact on the environment and are subject to a decision of a competent national authority".

In recent years, many countries have enacted laws and directives mandating EIA for development activities in various sectors, including forestry. For example, the European Union directive of 1985 establishes requirements for EIA in all member countries. In 1991, 26 nations of the United Nations Commission for Europe (UNECE) signed the Convention on EIA in a transboundary context.

Emerging areas for EIA application

Integrating biodiversity considerations in EIA

The Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD) considers EIA as a tool for achieving the convention¿s objectives. Article 14 of the convention requires contracting parties to introduce appropriate procedures for EIA for proposals which might have effects on biological diversity. Forests are one of the thematic areas where it is suggested to integrate EIA in the work programme.
At the sixth session of its Conference of the Parties, draft guidelines for incorporating biodiversity-related issues in EIA legislation or processes and in strategic impact assessments were endorsed. The Secretariat of the CBD is compiling experiences in this specific field from countries.

Guidelines for incorporating biodiversity in EIA and SEA - Convention on Biological Diversity

Integrating biodiversity with national environmental assessment processes- UNEP/UNDP BPSB

World Bank Biodiversity and Environmental Assessment Toolkit

Forests, climate change and EIA

In the Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF), effective application of EIA is mentioned as a means to ensure that potential positive and negative environmental and societal impacts of carbon mitigation projects are effectively addressed in all phases of project development.
In December 2002, the Secretariat of UNFCCC prepared an options paper on modalities for addressing socio-economic and environmental impacts, including impacts on biodiversity and natural ecosystems for afforestation and reforestation project activities under the Clean Development Mechanism in the first commitment period.

Options paper on modalities for addressing socio-economic and environmental impacts, including impacts on biodiversity and natural ecosystems
Additional information on the role of forests in climate change
last updated:  Friday, September 30, 2005