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Our Guide to Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
Blog...Our Guide to Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

Our Guide to Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

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In this article, we’ll explain what an Environmental Impact Assessment is, why it is important in the midst of climate change, and how your project can complete an EIA successfully.
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Companies these days face a lot more to lose than just their business, but their respect of other stakeholders for failing to recognize the importance of protecting the environment – which can easily be done with an Environmental Impact Assessment. 

Today, many companies and projects seem to get their business up and running before taking environmental measures into consideration – which often results in project leaders scrambling to comply with environmental circumstances at the last minute.

Therefore, an Environmental Impact Assessment can prove to be a game changer for anyone conducting a project in the European Union – as significant environmental effects continue to change town and country planning alike, the EIA process can help those in the EU to improve their decision making process and mitigate their most likely significant environmental effects.

👉 In this article, we’ll explain what an Environmental Impact Assessment is, why it is important in the midst of climate change, and how your project can complete an EIA successfully.

What is an Environmental Impact Assessment?

An Environmental Impact Assessment, or an EIA, refers to the European directive used to help determine the major impacts that a current or future project creates towards the environment.

👉 An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) can help reveal to companies if their current or upcoming business projects are going to wreak havoc on the environment, asses environmental impacts, influence proposed development, and can present the opportunity for them to course correct this significant effects or environmental factors before following through with the rest of these development projects.

Think about when you determine your monthly budget. Whether the expenses have already been deducted from your bank account or are upcoming expenses – you are planning to see what kind of financial impact this month will have on your monetary reserves. The same goes for an Environmental Impact Assessment, as it is trying to determine the impact it will have on environmental circumstances.
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An Environmental Impact Assessment is often required in the EU for the following projects:

👉 The main goal of an Environmental Impact Assessment is to ensure that project developers are influenced by the results of the EIA quick enough to make adjustments that will avoid negative environmental impacts later on down the road. 

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Why is an Environmental Impact Assessment important?

As climate change continues to put several countries in the European area under stress with numerous heatwaves and other natural disasters, encouraging project leaders to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment has never been more important when it comes to relevant planning authority and environmental protection.

Think about all of the roads and building development proposals and private projects that continue to be passed at an unprecedented pace. If these developments want to stand the test of time, it’s best they undergo an Environmental Impact Assessment to assess environmental impacts prior to development proposal.
criticisms of EIAs

A perfect example of why environmental assessments are crucial, especially in the midst of climate change and sporadic weather, is with the recent railway link closure between the Italy/France border.

After needing to shut down trains en route from northern France to Italy in September 2023 following a landslide near Maurienne Valley, French officials announced it would take a minimum two months to repair the damage – but now are estimating that the rail tunnel will remain closed until at least 2024.

👉 As a result, travelers between France and Italy will have no choice but to fly or drive – which often creates a larger carbon footprint than train travel.

This incident isn’t only concerning seeing as excessive travel will be necessary for the upcoming winter holidays and the 2024 Olympics, which are to be held in Paris next summer – but for France as a whole, as the country has been trying to reduce the amount of short-haul flights.

train in swtizerland

If it weren’t for the requirement for major railways in the European Union to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment, officials wouldn’t be as educated on the safety precautions to take with the now closed-railway traffic. 

What must be considered prior to an environmental assessment under EIA guidelines?

The following impacts must always be considered when conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment on a project:

  • General population
  • Human health
  • Biodiversity
  • Land, Water, Air, and Soil
  • Culture 
  • Landscape

At the end of the day, an Environmental Impact Assessment surely would have highlighted all of these discrepancies when it came to the recent Italy and France railway closure.

Conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment helps to ensure greater transparency by informing others of the environmental concerns associated with a project, while also protecting society and the environment.

👉 Ultimately, an Environmental Impact Assessment can help to guarantee greater protection for the planet and society while also demonstrating greater transparency – which will prove beneficial for the project’s stakeholders. 

Who is required to provide an Environmental Impact Assessment?

Even if an Environmental Impact Assessment seems like a surprise to you and your upcoming project, in reality – the European Union has required an EIA since 1985.

👉 Did you know that the Environmental Impact Assessment has been adjusted 4 times over the past almost 40 years in order to remain aligned with the EU’s other commitments?

The most recent version of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive was solidified in 2011, and is the version still being used today.

According to the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive, all EU member states are required to share reports regarding how they implement the EIA Directive in their individual countries at least every six years.

Therefore, all 27 EU member states, such as countries like France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece, and more – are required to provide data or an environmental statement on how they make use of an Environmental Impact Assessment.

Examples of how EU member states can share this data under the EIA Directive include:

  • Sharing how many projects have been assessed under an Environmental Impact Assessment;
  • Revealing the average amount of time that an Environmental Impact Assessment takes per project;
  • Demonstrating proof for all of the costs associated and required when conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment.

👉 The EIA Directive has provided commission reports to help illustrate the effectiveness of an Environmental Impact Assessment across the EU over the years.

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What are the stages of an Environmental Impact Assessment?

Before any project in the European Union begins to tackle an Environmental Impact Assessment, it’s important to know the different stages of an EIA.

There are five main stages to conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment.

5 stages of an environmental impact assessment

  1. Screening – This first step of an EIA is a preliminary requirement, as it determines whether the potential project is already covered under current standards & regulations – which can help determine how hefty an environmental impact the project is bound to create and how closely it should be monitored. 
  2. Scoping – This second step is imperative as it assesses the issues to be addressed in the Environmental Statement (which concerns step 3). Oftentimes, the individual reporting under the EIA Directive will ask local planning authority for their advice on what should be included in the Environmental Statement. This is often referred to as a, “scoping opinion.”
  3. Developing an Environmental Statement – When creating an environmental statement, otherwise referred to as an ES – project developers must include information related to the potential environmental impacts and delineated how they plan to comply with any environmental regulations they may be obliged to follow. This third step is often not done by the leaders of the project alone, but with the help of an expert third-party – like Greenly.
  4. Draft an Application & Schedule a Consultation Meeting – Once the Environmental Statement has been prepared, it needs to be published electronically for public consumption and review. These public overseers will then provide insight if the proposed draft is satisfactory or is in need of further review.
  5. Make Decisions – After the applicant has received constructive criticism on their proposed Environmental Statement, it can then be passed onto local planning authorities or the Secretary of State to receive approval for development. If officially granted consent to move forward with the project, the public is then notified through both electronic means and official public notice.

👉 Although it may seem tedious, these five steps for an Environmental Impact Assessment are essential to ensuring that all potential predicaments of a project are thoroughly assessed.

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Is an Environmental Impact Assessment worth it?

In comparison to other reporting directives in the EU, some may view an Environmental Impact Assessment to be trivial – but there are several reasons why it isn’t.

It’s true that going through all of the steps to adhere to the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive can be time consuming and tedious for project leaders, but it is more important than ever in the midst of climate change.

Think about it this way – think about a new condo building to be constructed in Miami. Seeing as the city is bound to experience hurricanes, heatwaves, and rising sea levels – it is viable to presume that building constructors and investors would like assurance to know that the building is a project worthwhile that can stand the test of time.

An Environmental Impact Assessment isn’t only beneficial for the planet, but it can ensure the longevity and sustainable success of a project – in addition to helping preserve natural resources, an improved understanding of environmental information, and highlight the need for screening direction.

Benefits of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

Therefore, projects and companies that adhere to the Environmental Impact Assessment could benefit from the following:

  • Improved Stakeholder Engagement – Seeing as an Environmental Impact Assessment often requires communication with your stakeholders, seeking to conduct an EIA and curate an Environmental Statement could serve as an opportunity to facilitate more transparency dialogue with your stakeholders.
  • Enhanced Transparency & Accountability – Since the reports required under the EIA Directive demand EU member states to demonstrate proof of compliance, an Environmental Impact Assessment can help to demonstrate a project’s ability to take responsibility for their actions.
  • Prevent Legal Troubles – Projects that fail to comply with the EIA Directive could face serious legal issues, and as a result – following the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive can prevent future expensive time consuming and legal battles.
  • Better PR and Brand Recognition – Complying with the EIA shows a project or company’s dedication to environmental responsibility can improve brand image. 

All around, the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive may seem like just another environmental protocol – but it is more imperative than ever as we learn to adjust to life with climate change and put inherent trust that our infrastructure and transportation systems won’t go against us in the meantime.

What about Greenly? 

If reading this article on our guide to an environmental impact assessment, or an EIA, has made you interested in reducing your carbon emissions to further fight against climate change – Greenly can help you!

It can be difficult to determine the necessary steps to conduct a successful environmental impact assessment, but don’t worry – Greenly is here to help! Click here to book a demo and get personalized expertise on how you can start to reduce your own emissions and decrease your environmental impact.

Greenly can help you make an environmental change for the better, starting with a carbon footprint assessment to know how much carbon emissions your company produces.

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