Environmental impact assessment directive

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Adopted 25 years ago, the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive (known as the EIA Directive) should be adapted to reflect the experience gained as well as changes in EU legislation and policy, and European Court of Justice case law. The EIA Directive has been identified as a potential instrument for a future simplification exercise (COM(2009)15).[1]



What should the updated EIA directive contain?


As a result of the review process, on 26 October 2012 the Commission adopted a proposal for a new Directive that would amend the current Directive. The proposal is intended to lighten unnecessary administrative burdens and make it easier to assess potential impacts, without weakening existing environmental safeguards. The quality of the decision-making process will be reinforced, current levels of environmental protection will be improved, and businesses should enjoy a more harmonised regulatory framework. The changes are also forward looking, and emerging challenges that are important to the EU as a whole in areas like resource efficiency, climate change, biodiversity and disaster prevention will now be reflected in the assessment process.

A more thorough discussion about the EIA directive is presented here D↷ (only in Finnish).

⇤--#: . Briefly put, the Directive amendment addresses important aspects of EIA, contains steps towards improvement, but fails to address the most importan insufficiencies of the EIA Directive:

  1. EIA remains separate from both project planning (and execution) and decision making regarding permitting of the project. Therefore significant hindrances to the effectiveness of EIA remain.
  2. Participation remains a separate process alongside assessment. It remains an event to be executed, not an essential menas of obtaining relevant and effective input to assessment (and policy making and project planning).
    • Especially, there should not be an upper limit to the time of participation in relation to EIA. A possibility for a continuously open process must be provided.
  3. Quality of the EIA can not be improved by limiting the allowed assessors to accredited expert parties. EIAs address broad and multifaceted problems in which broad range of expertise is needed. Limitations to allowed assessors weakens the possibilities of EIA to duly address all relevant aspects.
    • Especially, addressing issues of health remains a marginal aspect in the Directive. It is unlikely that the environmental experts, referred to in the amended text, would be capable of dealing with health impacts as they have not been capable in that in the past.
    • The biggest challenges in EIA do not relate to the capacity of technical analysis of impacts, but rather to the capability of identifying all relevant aspects to address in EIA and to duly interpret and characterize the practical implications and societal meanings of the assessment results. This necessitates broad inclusion of knowledge and opinions from various sources, incl. experts on various fields, policy makers, developers, stakeholders, and public at large.
  4. Surely some more as well, but these were the first thoughts after first read-through. --Mikko Pohjola 18:59, 14 November 2012 (EET) (type: truth; paradigms: science: attack)


In July 2009, the Commission published a report on the application and effectiveness of the EIA Directive (COM(2009)378). The report outlines the strengths of the EIA Directive, highlights the main areas where improvements are needed and provides recommendations, where relevant.[1]

In June 2010, the Commission launched a wide public consultation. The consultation covers a broad variety of issues (e.g. quality of the EIA process, harmonisation of assessment requirements between Member States, assessment of transboundary projects or projects with transboundary effects, role of the environmental authorities, and development of synergies with other EU policies). More information on the public consultation can be found under the following webpage.

The phase of public consultation was concluded by a Conference for the 25th anniversary of the EIA Directive.

The findings of the public consultation and the conclusions of the Conference have fed into the Commission's review process of the EIA Directive.

See also



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